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Ontario opens COVID-19 vaccination to those 75 and older, expands pharmacy rollout

Friday, March 19, 2021 @ 1:55 PM | By John Schofield

Ontario is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination to residents aged 75 and older starting March 22.

Those eligible may arrange a vaccination appointment through the province’s recently unveiled online booking system or call centre.

In a March 19 news release, the government also announced the expansion of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout through pharmacies for Ontarians aged 60 and older. Another 350 pharmacies will start administering the vaccines across the province over the next two weeks — bringing the total to approximately 700 locations. That number is expected to reach about 1,500 pharmacies by the end of April, the release added.

Pharmacy vaccinations are by appointment only and may be arranged by contacting a participating pharmacy directly. In addition, many primary care providers are contacting eligible patients to book an appointment.

Meanwhile, the province reported that daily new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario reached 1,745 on March 19, the highest level in six weeks and the highest in Canada. A March 14 tally of 1,747 was later deemed to be inaccurate. An additional 10 virus-related deaths were also reported, bringing the total number of deaths in Ontario since the pandemic started to 7,212. As of March 19, the rolling, seven-day average of new COVID-19 infections had reached 1,480, compared with 1,063 two weeks ago.

On March 18, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, confirmed that the province has entered the third wave of the pandemic, three days after the Ontario Hospital Association declared the start of a third wave. According to news reports, Dr. Peter Juni, the head of Ontario’s science advisory table, has called for a strict, three-week lockdown in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region to help control the spread of more infectious COVID-19 variants.

Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner laid some of the blame for the third wave on Premier Doug Ford.

“The fact remains,” he said in a March 15 statement, “that Premier Ford refused to make the necessary investments in paid sick days, adequate PPE and asymptomatic testing that our health professionals, municipal partners and workers have been saying will help contain the spread of COVID.”

In a March 18 Tweet, Whitby, Ont., Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull cited a news report attributing Ontario’s third wave of COVID-19 to the provincial government ignoring the advice of its science advisory table to maintain the provincial stay-at-home order, which was lifted last month.

Despite confirmation of the third wave, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Toronto medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa issued a statement March 17 asking the province to modify Toronto’s Grey-Lockdown restrictions to allow for the opening of additional businesses and amenities.

“The science at this time does not support the kind of reopening that would be provided for under the Red Zone designation,” said the statement. “As Mayor Tory and Dr. de Villa explained, with warmer weather approaching and vaccination progress while looking at the situation in surrounding regions, there is the opportunity for a data-led response that has led to discussions around outdoor dining, outdoor fitness and exercise and other areas.”

In its March 19 news release, the government stated that Ontario leads the country in the total number of vaccines administered. It said more than 1.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been given across the province, including over 129,000 doses to long-term care home residents. More than 294,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, it added, including over 61,000 long term-care home residents.

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