City of Toronto and partners start COVID-19 vaccination pilots for people experiencing homelessness and frontline workers in select shelters

The City of Toronto is pleased to partner with Unity Health Toronto, University Health Network and Inner City Health Associates on COVID-19 vaccination pilot clinics for people experiencing homelessness and frontline shelter workers in select shelters.

Unity Health Toronto ran a clinic January 15 to offer the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine to more than 50 senior residents and more than 20 staff of the City-operated Scarborough Village Residence shelter site. This clinic is part of a pilot to vaccinate people experiencing homelessness and staff at up to four shelter sites, with support from the City’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration, Toronto Public Health and the Inner City Health Associates (ICHA). This pilot is prioritizing shelter sites with the highest population of seniors and people with a significant risk of severe outcome as a result of COVID-19. The purpose of the pilot is to test the clinic model and develop a "playbook" for broader future roll-out of the vaccine in the City’s shelter system.

Also, on January 15, University Health Network (UHN) ran a one-day clinic to vaccinate frontline workers at the City’s COVID-19 recovery program for people experiencing homelessness. Just over 130 workers at this site received their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. This site was selected as a priority site for the vaccine due to the direct role staff have in caring for vulnerable people affected by COVID-19 and through its connection to UHN. Both ICHA and UHN helped the City establish this recovery program, the first of its kind in Canada last spring.

These vaccination clinics are an important step in further protecting people in the shelter system from COVID-19. The City is continuing to implement significant public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the shelter system while vaccine roll-out is underway, including maintaining physical distancing spaces, mandatory mask requirements for clients and staff and the operation of the recovery program for people experiencing homelessness who test positive for COVID-19.


“We are making progress now – as part of an all hands on deck effort – to get the vaccine to our most vulnerable residents. The City of Toronto continues to roll-out important COVID-19 vaccinations through a coordinated effort with our Vaccine Taskforce, our local hospitals and the Province. We are grateful to our dedicated health partners UHN, Unity Health, ICHA and TPH for delivering the first dose to frontline workers and some of the most vulnerable residents of our city. Reducing the spread of COVID-19 is our top priority and we are thankful for the tireless efforts of our staff and partners in fighting this pandemic everyday.”

- Mayor John Tory

“We know that people experiencing homelessness are among our most vulnerable residents and many of them also have complex health issues that puts them at added risk. I am incredibly happy that that the Province of Ontario recognized the importance of protecting this population and the people who support them.”

- Mary-Anne Bédard, General Manager, Shelter, Support and Housing Administration

“From Day One, our COVID-19 response has been focussed on doing everything we can to protect our most vulnerable. We know that people experiencing homelessness can face multiple barriers to accessing health care services, so I am heartened to see that the City continues to work with the Province and our partners to offer the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to residents and frontline staff in our shelter system. These partnerships with ICHA, UHN, Unity Health Toronto are part of our unified effort to reduce protect people in our community at increased risk of COVID-19, as well as those who take care of them on the frontlines.”

- Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health

“Unity Health Toronto has been asked to develop a playbook for COVID-19 vaccination in shelters for vulnerable populations. This will help guide system partners who will be providing vaccinations in congregate settings for people at risk. We are honored to contribute to this work that is at the core of our mission and values at Unity Health.”

Dr. Tim Rutledge, President and CEO of Unity Health Toronto:

"Frontline community workers have been heroes throughout the pandemic and ensuring they are prioritized in access for the vaccine is a crucial step forward. We are urgently committed to working with all partners to better protect people experiencing homelessness with the COVID-19 vaccine and the health and social supports needed to get us through this pandemic."

-Dr. Andrew Boozary, Executive Director, UHN Social Medicine

"All clients and staff in the homelessness sector and shelters are in immediate need of COVID vaccination. Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) is pleased to be working closely with our community and hospital partners to ensure people experiencing homelessness have access to vaccinations. We are grateful that UHN is supporting the vaccination of all isolation site staff and thankful for Unity Health’s support in vaccinating our homelessness outreach teams and clients.”

- Dr. Andrew Bond, Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) Medical Director

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