Ontarians aged 80 and older are set to start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March as the province expands its immunization campaign.
Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, the head of the province’s vaccine task force, announced a specific timeline for distributing the shots on Wednesday, noting the schedule depends on vaccine supply.
An online booking system and service desk will become available March 15. That’s when people aged 80 and older, or those booking for them, can access it.
People will be notified through media announcements, flyers delivered to households and phone calls from local health units, Hillier said.
“They will reach out to those populations and make sure they know,” Hillier said as he detailed the estimated timeline at a news conference Wednesday.
Ontario then aims to vaccinate adults aged 75 and older starting April 15. Shots will go to those 70 and older beginning May 1, he said.
People aged 65 and older will be vaccinated starting June 1 and those 60 and older the following month.
Vaccinations for populations considered high-risk, including Indigenous adults, will be ongoing as the province targets those age groups.
Essential workers will likely begin getting their shots in May if supply allows, Hillier said.
Some private-sector companies with large operations have offered to vaccinate their essential workers, their families and communities when the time comes, and Hillier said the province intends to take up the offer.
“We will take advantage of all of it,” Hillier said.
Shots will be administered at pharmacies, mass vaccination sites, mobile units and smaller sites depending on the public health unit.
The transition to vaccinate the broader population will ramp up as the province completes its high-priority vaccinations over the next week — staff, residents and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, Hillier said. Second doses have also begun in some fly-in First Nations communities.
Vaccine supply will determine whether Ontario meets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge that all Canadians who want a COVID-19 will have one by September, Hillier said.
“I’d love to say, ‘yeah, you know, by Labour Day weekend we’re gonna have every single person in Ontario who is eligible and who wants a vaccine to have one.’ I’m a little bit reluctant to do that, because it depends on the arrival of those vaccines,” Hillier said.
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In the U.S., COVID-19 vaccine makers told Congress on Tuesday to expect a big jump in the delivery of doses over the coming month, and the companies insist they will be able to provide enough for most Americans to get inoculated by summer.
By the end of March, Pfizer and Moderna expect to have provided the U.S. government with a total of 220 million vaccine doses, up sharply from the roughly 75 million shipped so far.
That’s not counting a third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, that’s expected to get a green light from regulators soon.
Looking ahead to summer, Pfizer and Moderna expect to complete delivery of 300 million doses each, and J&J aims to provide an additional 100 million doses. That would be more than enough to vaccinate every American adult, the goal set by the Biden administration.
Two other manufacturers, Novavax and AstraZeneca, have vaccines in the pipeline and anticipate eventually adding to those totals.
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Ontario sets timelines for COVID-19 vaccination priority groups:
As of 12:40 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had reported 854,145 cases of COVID-19, with 30,513 cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 21,788.
Ontario on Wednesday reported 1,054 new cases of COVID-19 and nine additional deaths. Hospitalizations in the province stood at 675, with 287 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
The update came as the head of the province’s vaccination task force, retired general Rick Hillier, gave an update on Ontario’s vaccine rollout. He offered timing around when people in different age groups — beginning with people over 80 in late March — will be able to access vaccines.
Vaccinations for people over age 80 living in the community will begin in the 3rd week of March, says Hillier. (Other provinces beginning this age group next week.)
Start dates for other age groups:
April 15: 75+
May 1: 70+
June 1: 65+#COVID19Ontario
In Quebec, health officials reported 806 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and 17 additional deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 655, with 130 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.
In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported eight new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Wednesday. The province had 345 active cases, and six COVID-19 patients in hospital.
Nova Scotia reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had not yet reported updated figures on Wednesday.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 76 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and no additional deaths. In neighbouring Saskatchewan, health officials reported 126 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths. Alberta, meanwhile, reported 267 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths.
As of Wednesday, anyone born in 1946 and earlier in Alberta was supposed to be able to book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, but the system quickly became overwhelmed.
Alberta’s system overwhelmed on first day that all those 75 and older can book COVID-19 vaccinations https://t.co/roUz8WyScx
In British Columbia, health officials reported 559 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death on Tuesday. The province is expected to start informing people over age 80 about their vaccinations for COVID-19 starting next week as the province prepares to open mass clinics while doing more in-depth testing for variants.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. is in a phase of “vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” but an age-based immunization plan will remain in place despite some calls to prioritize essential workers.
Across the North, there were no new cases reported in Nunavut or Yukon. Health officials in the Northwest Territories reported two more cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, saying one was an “out-of-territory worker related to the Gahcho Kué Mine outbreak” and the other was an “out-of-territory seasonal worker in Yellowknife.”
Here’s a look at what’s happening across Canada:
-From The Canadian Press and CBC News, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
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As of early Wednesday morning, more than 112.2 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, with more than 63.3 million cases listed as recovered on a tracking site maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at well over 2.4 million.
In the Americas, the presidents of Mexico and Argentina pressed the United Nations and the world’s richest countries to improve poorer nations’ access to vaccines.
Brazil has fully approved the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine, though a dispute over a supply deal means it has none to start an immunization program with.
Colombia has approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
In Africa, South Africa’s government advisers had organized vaccines into three groups and those considered for “immediate use” were the Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Moderna shots.
Ghana has become the first country in the world to receive vaccines acquired through the United Nations-backed COVAX initiative with a delivery of 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India. The vaccines, delivered by UNICEF, arrived at Accra’s international airport early Wednesday and are part of the first wave of COVID-19 vaccines being sent by COVAX, an international co-operative program formed to make sure low- and middle-income countries have fair access to COVID-19 vaccines.
In the Asia-Pacific region, South Korea’s top infectious disease experts warned that vaccines will not bring the disease to a quick end and called for continued vigilance in physical distancing and mask wearing as the country prepares to give its first shots on Friday.
Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, said Wednesday it would take a “considerably long time” before the mass vaccination campaign brings the virus under control.
The country aims to vaccinate more than 70 per cent of the population by November. But a safe return to a life without masks is highly unlikely this year, considering various factors including the growing spread of virus variants, said Choi Won Suk, an infectious disease professor at the Korea University Ansan Hospital.
“We are concerned that people might drop their guard as vaccination begins, triggering another massive wave of the virus,” Jeong said.
Jeong spoke as South Korea began transporting the first vaccines rolled off a production line in the southern city of Andong, where local pharmaceutical company SK Bioscience is manufacturing the shots developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.
The country will kick off the vaccination on Friday starting with residents and employees at long-term care facilities.
Separately, some 55,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals treating COVID-19 patients will begin receiving the shots developed by Pfizer and BioNTech on Saturday.
Thailand, meanwhile, received its first batch of vaccines, with inoculations set to begin in a few days.
— India will start inoculating people above 60, and those with underlying health problems above age 45 in the second phase of its massive vaccination drive from March 1.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar says the vaccinations will be done in 10,000 public and 20,000 private hospitals. Javadekar told reporters on Wednesday that vaccine shots in government hospitals will be free, but did not say how much it will cost in private hospitals.
India started inoculating health workers beginning on Jan. 16. The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers. The government has authorized emergency use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by Serum Institute of India, and a homegrown vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech.
Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in some parts of India after months of a steady nationwide decline. In many cities, markets are bustling, roads are crowded and restaurants are nearly full. The country is reporting about 11,000 to 13,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000. in September.
In the Middle East, the World Bank threatened to suspend its multimillion-dollar financing for Lebanon’s vaccinations over politicians jumping the line.
In Europe, the Czech prime minister said the pandemic situation in his country, one of the hardest-hit in the European Union, is “extremely serious” and his government will have to impose more restrictions to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the measures are needed to prevent “a total catastrophe” in hospitals that have been coming close to their limits.
The government will decide those measures later Wednesday. Babis says they will be similar to those in place last spring, when the borders and schools were completely closed. He also mentioned possible restrictions to limit the movement of people.
Sweden is preparing new measures to try to curb a resurgence in cases.
European Union government leaders will agree to maintain curbs on non-essential travel within the EU despite the bloc’s executive asking six countries to ease border restrictions.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 9 a.m. ET