COVID-19 Update for May 5 2021 – Vaccine Expansion: Kids, Pharmacies and Mobile Clinics

Health Canada expands use of Pfizer, Ontario expands vaccine locations.

Ontario expands vaccine access points

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced that starting later this week more than 60 pharmacies across the province will start providing the Moderna vaccine to adults over the age of 18. This rollout will begin Friday of this week and will add additional pharmacy locations across targeted public health units.

Pharmacies that are already administering Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines will continue to do so; in order to ensure a smooth roll out, pharmacies will only be able to administer one type of vaccine.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones also highlighted that employer-led mobile vaccination clinics will be launched for small- to medium-sized businesses in hotspot communities. The first five of these mobile units will be available starting May 7th and will target businesses in Toronto, York and Peel.

You can read more here.

Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine eligibility expanded.

Dr. Supriya Sharma, Canada’s Chief Medical Advisor, announced that Health Canada has expanded the Interim Order authorization to allow the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for the use in children aged 12 to 15.

Pfizer has conducted a study that shows their vaccine regiment has 100% efficacy in this younger age group, and submitted their request for an expanded approval on April 16th.

Health Canada will be providing more information on the accessibility and roll out of vaccines tomorrow. It will be up to individual provinces too determine the timing of when this age group will be able to receive their doses.

You can read more here.

COVID-19 Update for April 28 2021 – Ontario granting employees three paid sick days

If the Putting Workers First Act passes, all workers will have access to three paid sick days whether they have become ill with COVID-19, have to self-isolate and remain home because of close contact with the virus or who require the day off to get vaccinated.

The benefit will reimburse employers for what they pay employees up to $200 per employee per day for three days. The three days are retroactive to April 19 and will continue until September 25.

The provincial government also announced its intent to double payments Ontarians can receive from the federal sick days program. If approved, workers would receive a total of $1,000 per week for four weeks.

More about the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Benefit can be found here.

As Ontario hospitals continue to grapple with the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial government has temporarily adjusted an emergency order allowing for the relocation of some critical care patients.

This new measure will only be used in the event of a “surge event” at strained hospitals. The patients being relocated will only be done in the event a doctor is satisfied they are able to receive the appropriate level of care at the new facility and will not compromise patient health.

You can learn more about this measure here.

Section 22 Business Closures

Since the City of Toronto and Region of Peel have implemented new regulations under Section 22 that allow for business closures for businesses with more than five positive COVID cases within 14 days, nearly 20 companies have faced full or partial closures.

Peel Region Public Health has ordered partial closures at eight businesses, including two Amazon fulfillment centres, one shift at the Canada Post Gateway and a Canadian Tire Distribution Centre. In Toronto, Toronto Public Health has ordered four full and seven partial closures, including a McDonald’s restaurant in North York, a car dealership and a butcher shop.

COVID-19 Update for April 23 2021 – Canada Pre-orders Booster Shots

While Canada grapples with the pandemic’s third wave, the federal government is preparing for a future where additional COVID-19 shots may be required.

Amid a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to break records across Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government is also thinking ahead.

Trudeau announced Canada has reached a new agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech for up to 120 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the next several years. The agreement includes 35 million doses for 2022 and 30 million in 2023, with options to acquire an additional 30 million in 2022 and 2023, and 60 million in 2024. The order is for the most recent version of the vaccine based on research and testing to help control variants and mutations.

Trudeau’s announcement follows comments made by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on April 1 suggesting a strong likelihood of the need for a third dose between six and 12 months after being fully vaccinated. Bourla also said, “From there, there will be an annual revaccination, but all of that needs to be confirmed.”

The government is also in conversation with other vaccine manufacturers about the potential for securing booster shots, including domestic producers. Earlier this week, Quebec-based Medicago became the first Canadian company to submit a COVID-19 vaccine candidate to Health Canada for approval. Trudeau says the company’s application demonstrates Canada has the talent, knowledge and expertise to develop its own vaccines.

To date, nearly 30 percent of Canadian adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Minister of Procurement Anita Anand anticipates receiving 1.9 million doses over the coming week, including one million from Pfizer, 650,000 from Moderna and Canada’s first 300,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson.

You can read the full announcement here.

COVID-19 Update for April 16 2021 – Ontario Extending Stay-at-Home Order

The worst-case scenario modeling projections have become a reality and now Ontarians will remain at home even longer.

With daily cases projected to top 5,000 over the weekend, Premier Doug Ford is extending the stay-at-home order for two more weeks, effectively immediately. Ford is also closing all non-essential construction and prohibiting all outdoor gatherings except for members of a single household. Outdoor recreational activities — including golf courses, basketball courts, soccer fields and playgrounds — will also be closed, and all religious and funeral services will be capped at 10 people both indoors and outdoors. All stores that are permitted to have in-person shopping under the Emergency Brake designation, including grocery stores and pharmacies, will be limited to 25 per cent capacity effective 12:01 a.m. on Saturday.

The province is also temporarily enhancing bylaw and police officers’ authority for the duration of the stay-at-home order, granting them the ability to question people’s purpose of being outside of their residence, asking for their address and stopping drivers to inquire about where they are going.

Beginning Monday, checkpoints will be set up at all interprovincial borders to restrict travel for all purposes except for work, medical care, transportation of goods and exercising Indigenous Treaty rights. Ford continues to call on the federal government to close international borders, limit travel and address issues with testing and quarantining to travelers arriving at Pearson.

In what Labour Minister Monte McNaughton called a “last warning,” inspectors will be adding law offices, accounting firms and other businesses to increased workplace inspections to ensure all employees who are able to work from home are doing so.

Morbid Modeling
A modeling update provided by Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table today showed with “weak” public health measures, new case counts could reach more than 30,000 a day by June. With “moderate” measures, they are projected to range from 10,000 to 15,000 and with “strong” measures, such as a six-week stay-at-home order, they could be contained below 10,000 per day. ICU capacity is expected to exceed 800 patients in the next two weeks and continue increasing to more than 1,000.

Federal Support from the Canadian Red Cross
Addressing Canadians earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Ontario has reached out for more vaccination support and the federal government is standing by to deploy Canadian Red Cross mobile vaccination teams to the province, in addition to their continued help with needs in select long-term care and retirement homes across Ontario.

Premier Ford rejected this offer, with spokesperson Ivana Yelich saying, “While we appreciate the Prime Minister’s offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for the administration of vaccines in Ontario. We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue.”

More Pfizer Doses
The federal government also announced that Canada has signed an agreement with Pfizer for eight million additional doses of COVID-19 vaccines. With the new deal, four million additional doses will arrive in May, two million additional doses in June and two million additional doses in July. The total of eight million doses in May from Pfizer is roughly double than expected, and Pfizer is also moving an additional 400,000 doses from Q3 up for delivery in June. In May and June, two million doses of Pfizer will be coming into the country every week, with the total in June increasing for a total of 12 million doses spread over five weeks. From April-June, a total of 24 million doses will arrive from Pfizer alone.

Canada is expecting to receive 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson during the week of April 27, which will then be delivered to provinces at beginning of May. From AstraZeneca, Canada is expected to receive 4.1 million doses from the Serum Institute of India and United States by the end of June, with further deliveries in Q3.

Despite fluctuations from suppliers, including Moderna where challenges in ramping up production have resulted in reduced shipments and delays, between 48 million and 50 million doses of vaccines are expected in Canada by the end of June.

The full news release is here.

COVID-19 Update for April 12 2021 – Ontario keeping schools closed

Students will remain at home as COVID-19 cases are at an all-time high.

Despite comments to parents over the weekend from Education Minister Stephen Lecce that the province intended to continue with in-person learning following this week’s spring break, Ontario will be keeping school doors locked.

Premier Doug Ford insisted that the spread of COVID-19 remains in communities, not schools, but bringing kids back into a congregate setting after a week off is not a risk he is willing to take.

A date for a return to in-person learning has not been confirmed.

Ford said the government will ensure emergency childcare options are available for families of healthcare and essential workers while schools are closed, and that he will “continue to prioritize the vaccination of education workers who support students with special needs and all education workers in select hot-spot areas.”

The full news release is here.

COVID-19 Update for April 7 2021 – State of Emergency in Ontario

The new order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, April 8, 2021. These measures will last for at least four weeks, on top of the measures that were introduced with the province-wide “emergency break” that came into effect last Saturday.

The following additional items will be introduced:

  • All non-essential retail will only be permitted to operate for curbside and online shopping from the hours of 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.
  • Big box stores will only be permitted to sell essential items and will be limited to 25% capacity.
  • Residential evictions will be suspended.

You can read more here.

Vaccine projection and additional measures

Ford has estimated that Ontario will be able to administer the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 40% of the population by the end of this stay-at-home order.

To support this effort, the government is introducing mobile vaccination teams that will administer vaccines to individuals 18 years of age and older in high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations and locations occupied by large employers in hot spot neighbourhoods.

Starting with the school break next week, education workers who provide direct daily support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel, will be eligible for vaccination.

COVID-19 Update for April 6 2021 – Vaccine eligibility is expanding

Ontario is moving into Phase Two of its vaccination plan, including targeting essential workers and Ontarians living in “hot spot” communities.

Phase Two will see Ontarians prioritized by age and risk. In this phase, Ontarians aged 60 and older will be able to book a vaccination appointment in any region in the province as provincial clinics open to that age bracket beginning April 7 at 8 a.m.

Ontarians with the designated highest-risk health conditions and their caregivers will also be eligible for vaccination as early as today.

Essential workers will also be able to be vaccinated during this second phase of the vaccine rollout. Additionally, 13 public health units identified as “hot spot” communities will be receiving increased allocations of vaccines.

The province’s news release can be found here.

Final Safe Restart Agreement funding sent to provinces

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced the final instalment of the Safe Restart Agreement funding will be sent to provinces today. This $700 million marks the last of the $19 billion allocated to the province to help them combat the virus.

COVID-19 Update for April 1 2021 – 2:30PM

Premier Doug Ford said the government is pulling a province-wide “emergency brake” as a result of a surge in COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations.

Ontario pulling “emergency brake”

The emergency brake is a shutdown for all 34 health units in Ontario, to take effect on Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and will last for four weeks.

The shutdown is not as extreme as public health officials recommended earlier Thursday — during an update on modelling and recommendations for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this morning, they called for a full stay-at-home order to be initiated. However, Minister of Health Christine Elliott said that the province is not issuing a full stay-at-home order, but is encouraging people to limit trips outside of their homes to essential purposes only.

The shutdown measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Prohibiting indoor organized public events and social gatherings and limiting the capacity for outdoor organized public events or social gatherings to a five-person maximum;
  • Restricting in-person shopping in all retail settings, including a 50 per cent capacity limit for supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets, other stores that primarily sell food and pharmacies, and 25 per cent for all other retail including big box stores, along with other public health and workplace safety measures;
  • Prohibiting personal care services;
  • Prohibiting indoor and outdoor dining;
  • Prohibiting the use of facilities for indoor or outdoor sports and recreational fitness (e.g., gyms);
  • Requiring day camps to close; and,
  • Limiting capacity at weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies to 15 per cent occupancy per room indoors, and to the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance outdoors.

More information can be found here.

Vaccine availability

The Ontario government is adding more than 350 pharmacies and more primary care settings across the province to the vaccine rollout. All of these locations will be offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals aged 55 and over, with some locations to begin offering the vaccine Saturday, April 3, 2021.

COVID-19 Update for March 26 2021 – 2:30PM

The Ontario government made two announcements today regarding COVID-19.

Vaccine Booking
Ontario is expanding vaccine availability to people aged 70 and over, starting with Toronto on Saturday and more public health units will be added “in near future.”

Changing Zones
A media release from the Ministry of Health announced two health units are changing zones after the weekend. Hamilton will move from Red-Control into the Grey-Lockdown zone of the provincial government’s COVID-19 framework and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will move from Orange-Restrict into Red-Control. This will be effective on March 29 at 12:01 a.m.

The Ontario government is also making changes to what is and is not permitted to open in the Grey-Lockdown zone. The new criteria will allow the resumption of outdoor fitness classes — with a maximum of 10 people — and the opening of marinas as of Monday.

Personal care services, such as barber shops, hair and nail salons and body art establishments, will also be able to operate on an appointment-basis at less than 25 per cent capacity or five patrons starting April 12.

Ontario is also loosening outdoor capacity limits for weddings, funerals, and religious services, in all levels starting Monday, “to allow for the number of individuals that can maintain two metres of physical distance.”

The full news release can be found here.

COVID-19 Update for March 19 2021 – 10:15AM

Ontarians aged 75 and older can book vaccination appointments through its online booking system starting Monday, Premier Ford announced this morning.

Expanded booking eligibility
The province is expanding the age range of those able to book vaccination appointments through the provincial portal to those aged 75 years and older effective Monday, March 22. Participating pharmacies and primary care settings will also offer vaccination appointments to Ontarians 60 years of age and older.

Additionally, 350 more pharmacies will be offering vaccine appointments over the next two weeks to bring the total to 700 pharmacies offering appointments across the province.

The full news release can be found here.