Ontario Identifies Key Groups for Distribution of Initial COVID-19 Vaccines

Published on December 11, 2020

Ontario Identifies Key Groups for Distribution of Initial COVID-19 Vaccines

The Ontario government is ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are received, beginning with vaccinating vulnerable populations and those who care for them. As recommended by the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force and in alignment with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the province has identified key populations to receive the vaccine first, including long-term care and retirement home residents and the staff who provide care to these groups. The government's approach is informed by science and prioritizes population groups that are at greatest risks of COVID-19.

Groups receiving the early vaccine doses in the first few months of the Ontario immunization program will include:

  • Residents, staff, essential caregivers, and other employees of congregate living settings (e.g., long-term care homes and retirement homes) that provide care for seniors as they are at higher risk of infection and serious illness from COVID-19;
  • Health care workers, including hospital employees, other staff who work or study in hospitals, and other health care personnel;
  • Adults in Indigenous communities, including remote communities where risk of transmission is high; and
  • Adult recipients of chronic home health care.

Ontario will also be prioritizing the rollout of the vaccine in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection, including those in the Red-Control and Lockdown zones. The immunization program will focus on healthcare workers and the most vulnerable populations in those regions.

At first, COVID-19 vaccines are expected to only be available for non-pregnant adults over the age of 18 years old based on early clinical trials. As further information becomes available from clinical trials and from Health Canada approvals, the groups for which the vaccines are authorized for use could change.

Ontario's approach is based on evidence available, the guidance of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, as well as recommendations from the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. Members, including ex-officio members, of the task force include experts in public health and immunization, health and clinical domains, ethics, behavioural science, operations and logistics, federal-provincial and Indigenous relations, and information technology and data.

As further information is made available about the various type of vaccines and availability of doses, additional details related to the implementation of the COVID-19 immunization program will be provided based on the latest medical advice and scientific evidence.

Vaccination is expected to be an effective way to prevent the spread and reduce the impact of COVID-19. Only vaccines that Health Canada determines to be safe and effective will be approved for use in the country. Before any vaccines are available in Ontario or Canada, they will undergo rigorous clinical trials to determine if they are safe and effective, and be evaluated and authorized for use by Health Canada using rigorous standards. Once a vaccine is approved and in use, Health Canada will continue to monitor it to ensure it continues to be safe and effective.

As the province prepares for the arrival of vaccines, it remains critically important that all Ontarians continue following public health advice to protect our communities and most vulnerable populations, and to stop the spread of COVID-19. This includes staying home if you have any symptoms, even mild; maintaining two metres of physical distancing from everyone else other than household members; avoiding social gatherings; adhering to the restrictions in your region on public and private gatherings; wearing a face covering indoors and wear one outdoors if physical distancing may not be maintained or if wearing one is required; washing your hands thoroughly and regularly.