The City of Toronto, through Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Toronto’s health care partners, including local hospitals, Ontario Health Teams, Local Health Integration Networks, family doctors and community-based health care service providers will begin vaccinating people experiencing homelessness in Toronto’s shelter system starting this week. This effort is part of several vaccination efforts being undertaken in Toronto ahead of the arrival of larger amounts of COVID-19 vaccine.
This weekend, Provincial officials confirmed for the City that vaccinating those experiencing homelessness is now part of its Phase One priority for vaccinations. The Government of Ontario is responsible for establishing the vaccination prioritization framework for all Ontarians.
TPH is working with its health care partners and the City’s Shelter Support and Housing Administration to identify homeless shelters at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19 to begin this important program of vaccination.
This week, the Province confirmed that those aged 80 years and older will also be among those eligible for vaccination as soon as vaccine supply is delivered. As more vaccines become available and following the provincial vaccination plan, the following Toronto residents will also be eligible for vaccination:
- Residents aged 80 years living independently in the community
- Patients aged 80 and older who attend hospitals for treatments such as dialysis or chemotherapy
- Seniors in congregate care settings such as assisting living
- Health care workers who are identified as very high priority including nurse practitioners, midwives, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, physicians, dentists and dental care providers and their staff who provide direct patient care
- Adults who are receiving on-going home care.
The current approach for vaccine prioritization efforts is to focus on protecting those most at risk of COVID-19 while minimizing the spread of virus. Given the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines presently, a methodical, planned program that focuses on protecting those most at risk and minimizing virus spread is required for vaccination delivery in Toronto. The delivery system will adapt as supply increases. Currently, vaccinations will only be available to people in the specific categories noted here. Anyone who does not qualify for vaccination at this time should not expect to be vaccinated. In most settings, appointments will be needed by those who are eligible for vaccination. Residents are asked to not attend a clinic unless they have an appointment.
Vaccine supply is expected to increase substantially in the coming weeks. Opportunities for more people to be vaccinated will be announced as information becomes available. In collaboration with health sector partners, significant progress has been made in immunizing long-term care residents and retirement home staff and the health care workers provincially defined as highest priority for vaccination in acute care and community settings as well as initiating immunization in Toronto's Indigenous community. Vaccination will continue for people previously provided with access to COVID-19 vaccinations, including staff at long-term care and retirement homes, as well as residents and essential care givers in these settings.
"We are doing everything we can to support the provincial and federal government in the vaccine rollout. We are working to vaccinate those at highest risk in our city as quickly as possible. Thank you to the provincial government for working with us to begin vaccinating our homeless population. I am proud of the work being done by City staff, Toronto Public Health, and our hospital and community healthcare partners to get as many people as we can vaccinated with the current supply of vaccines. This work will ramp up in the coming weeks as we receive more vaccine from the Government of Canada and it won't stop until every Toronto resident who wants a vaccine has been vaccinated. I continue to urge everyone to get vaccinated when they are eligible – it is safe, it will help protect you and everyone in your life, and it will help us defeat COVID-19."
- Mayor John Tory
"Our success in battling this pandemic will be measured in how well we have protected those who are most vulnerable. As vaccine supply increases, we've also seen a rise in highly-transmissible new variants of concern. People experiencing homelessness are at elevated risk of serious health impacts due to COVID-19, and are vulnerable to transmission in congregate settings. By updating their vaccination prioritization plan, the Province has made it possible for the City and our hospital and health care partners to help keep those most at risk in our communities safe."
- Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 10 Spadina-Fort York), Chair of the Toronto Board of Health
"Vaccination is resuming in earnest in Toronto. Already we are seeing promising responses to the vaccines in those who’ve been vaccinated in other parts of the world. Declining rates of illness in our own residents of long term care in Toronto are showing how much protection the vaccines provide. A vaccinated Toronto is the foundation of the return to so many of the things we miss about life before COVID-19. As Medical Officer of Health I ask you to get your vaccination when your turn comes and, in the meantime, to keep practising the steps for self protection that are the best protection for the unvaccinated, which for the time being is most of us. Stay home as much as possible, stay with the people you live with and apart from those you don’t. Wear a well fitting mask. Keep as much physical distance as you can from people when you’re outside home."
- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health
“The City's Immunization Task Force continues to work hard in preparation for the arrival of larger doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto. The City-operated immunization clinics will be augmented by a large number of partner-operated clinics, operating across the City. This network of immunization clinics will combine to ensure that everyone will be able to get vaccinated as very soon as vaccine availability permits.”
- Toronto Fire Chief and General Manager of the Office of Emergency Management, Matthew Pegg