Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Targets High-Risk Neighbourhoods

Published on April 15, 2021

Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Targets High-Risk Neighbourhoods

 To slow the spread of the virus and protect communities with the highest rates of transmission, Ontario is rolling out vaccines to "hot spot" regions across the province as part of Phase Two of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan. Through this initiative, 114 highly impacted neighbourhoods, as identified by postal code, will be reached through mass immunization clinics, mobile teams and pop-up clinics.

Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Toronto.

"As we receive more vaccines from the Federal government, it is vital that we continue to target our vaccination efforts on those most at risk," said Premier Ford. "We must get vaccines to the people in these hot spot regions as quickly as possible in order to stop the spread of this virus and prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed. This pop-up clinic shows once again how our valued community partners have stepped up and are working with local public health in our collective battle against COVID-19. This is another great example of Team Ontario at work."

Individuals aged 18 and over in designated hot spots, as identified by postal code, are eligible for vaccination through mobile teams and pop-up clinics in targeted settings. Starting in Peel and Toronto, the province will be providing additional resources to support more mobile vaccination teams, expanding to hot spots in other public health units in the future.

Mobile teams and pop-up clinics will administer vaccines in high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, and faith-based locations in hot spot neighbourhoods. Upcoming mobile and pop-up clinics will be promoted locally within their target communities and local public health units, and will not use the provincial booking system.  

This week, a pop-up clinic will begin operating at the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Complex in highly impacted North Etobicoke. The government has partnered with BAPS Charities and William Osler Health System to establish and operate the clinic. It is planned to run for three weeks. Appointment bookings for this clinic will be opened through the William Osler Health System booking system to the surrounding highly impacted hot spot communities and vaccinations will begin on April 14, 2021.

Ontario is also working with public health units, business groups and large employers to explore employer-operated onsite vaccination clinics, with a focus on hot spot communities at greatest risk. These clinics will be set up, operated and funded by participating employers within hot spot areas and will vaccinate employees aged 18 and over as well as members of the local and neighbouring communities. This capacity will supplement publicly-run vaccination clinics.

Employer-operated onsite clinics must have the support of local public health units and hospitals as the program needs to be consistent with local plans.

Employers interested in hosting an onsite clinic must meet the following criteria:

  • The workplace must be located within an identified hot-spot community and have had a previous COVID-19 outbreak or is at risk of an outbreak.
  • The onsite clinic will vaccinate employees that cannot work at home, many of whom reside in hot-spot areas.
  • The employer will also vaccinate those in the local community, either at the onsite clinic or an alternative location in consultation with the local public health unit.
  • The employer will take on the responsibility of setting up, operating and funding the onsite vaccination clinic as well as the community clinics being sponsored if not onsite.

In addition, to further support hot spot communities, as of Friday, April 9, 2021, the Ontario government expanded the provincial booking system to provide appointments to individuals aged 50 and over in hot spot communities at mass vaccination sites. Eligible populations, as identified by postal code, aged 50 and over can schedule an appointment through the provincial booking system, or directly through public health units that use their own booking system.

"COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods and communities across the province," said Minister Elliott. "Partnering with communities to deliver the vaccine is critical to reducing the impact of COVID-19 quickly, and we are working to mobilize every available channel for vaccine delivery to protect individuals and stop the spread of the virus." 

As of April 12, 2021, special education workers across the province and education workers in Peel and Toronto hot spots will be eligible to register for vaccination by calling the provincial vaccine booking line at 1‑833‑943‑3900, or directly through those public health units who are using their own system. These education workers will have been notified directly by their school board of their eligibility. Vaccinations will roll out in the near future to education workers in other hot spot communities in York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton and Durham. 

"Ontario's vaccine distribution plan continues to focus on getting vaccines to the people who are most at risk," said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. "By targeting hot spot zones with mobile teams and pop-up clinics, along with our mass immunization clinics, hospitals and pharmacies, we're making it easier for people in highly-impacted communities to obtain the vaccine so they can protect themselves and others."

Phase Two of Ontario's vaccine rollout will also prioritize individuals with the highest-risk health conditions in April 2021. If the province receives a steady supply of the COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government, over nine million Ontarians will be offered their first vaccination between April and end of June 2021.