City officials give update as Ontario stops increased vaccine supply to Toronto hot spots

Toronto officials are providing a COVID-19 update. Toronto Mayor John Tory, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Toronto Fire Chief and head of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg are speaking.

You can watch the livestream in this story.

Next week, Ontario will stop sending 50 per cent of its COVID-19 vaccine supply to hot spot neighbourhoods, instead allocating doses evenly across the province. 

In April, the provincial government began targeting communities with high rates of COVID-19 infections — the majority in Toronto — by supplying them with 25 per cent of doses. 

It ramped up that effort in the first two weeks of May to 50 per cent of doses. 

By May 10, 53.2 per cent of people over 18 years of age in hot spots had received at least one dose, compared to 46.9 per cent of people in lower risk neighbourhoods, according to provincial data released Wednesday.

The province said it increased the supply of vaccines to those areas by one million doses as a “time-limited response to reduce COVID-19 case, hospitalizations and deaths.” 

It will return to allocating doses by population in the last two weeks of May, as it opens eligibility to people aged 30 and up May 17 and all adults over 18 on May 24. 

The province is expecting an influx of doses from the federal government, which will translate to more supply at the city level. For May, Ontario will receive close to four million doses.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Wednesday that while the hot spot approach is working, the increased vaccine supply “will continue to make it easier than ever for those who are most at risk of COVID-19 to receive a vaccine.” 

Toronto’s Fire Chief Matthew Peg, head of emergency management, said the city will expand the number of appointments to match the increase in doses. This week clinics are administering 90,000 doses with the extra vaccine supply. 

Next week that will drop to 60,000 doses, he said. 

Toronto officials have repeatedly called for the province to extend its hot spot strategy, saying city-run and mobile and pop-up clinics have the capacity to vaccinate more people faster if given the supply.

“The more vaccine supply we can receive in our city the more appointments we can open up,” said Mayor John Tory Wednesday. “We have consistently advocated for a continuation of supply allocated to hot spots.” 

He pointed to the success of hot spots at dramatically increasing vaccination rates in hard-hit communities. The city is adding another five postal codes as hot spots to be targeted with mobile and pop-up clinics.

“Pop-up and mobile vaccine clinics have emerged as a real success story,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa. 

She said she hopes the province recognizes that increased supply in hot spots is a benefit to the entire province.

The province’s own science advisory table has recommended allocating 50 per cent of doses to hot spots for the entire month of May. Toronto’s Board of Health passed a motion May 10 calling for the province to follow this advice.

Toronto reported 814 new cases and 1,081 hospitalizations. More than 260 patients are in intensive care, and 20 more people have died. 

The city says it has administered more than 1.5 million vaccine doses. 

At least 70 per cent of residents over 50 years old have been vaccinated, Tory said.

Toronto is opening up an additional 5,000 appointments for next week as residents over 40 will be allowed to get their dose at the city’s mass vaccination sites. Almost all other spots are nearly fully booked. 

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