Ontario residents aged 40 and older are now able to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments through Ontario’s online booking system.

“Ontario continues to rapidly accelerate its COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and get more shots into arms,” said Deputy Premier and Health Minister Christine Elliott during a virtual announcement on May 12.

“This is an exciting milestone and a true testament to the determination and dedication of Team Ontario. We continue to see new records and milestones being met across the province, including in our hardest-hit communities. This approach is working,” said Elliott.

The province opened vaccine eligibility to Group 2 workers who cannot work from home and those considered most at-risk on May 11. As well, the province announced Indigenous residents, emergency responders and healthcare workers at risk of contracting COVID-19 would be eligible for an early second dose.

Elliott says appointments for the second dose for healthcare staff are coming as early as May 14. Appointments will be booked through hospital clinics where you received your first dose, with timing dependent on vaccine supply and availability.

“With an increased supply of vaccines, we will continue to make it easier than ever for those who are most at-risk of COVID-19 to receive a vaccine. This includes our front-line healthcare workers who have been working courageously around the clock to keep our communities safe.”

A timeline available from the Northwestern Health Unit anticipates those 30 and older will be able to book their appointments as of the week of May 17, and those 18 and older will become eligible as of the week of May 24.

Elliott notes Ontario has administered first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to over 50 percent of Ontarians aged 18 and over, and we’re on track to hit 65 percent by the end of May. Over 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered overall.

Ontario reports that as of May 11, 93 percent of Ontario residents above the age of 80 have received their shot, and 92 percent of residents between 75 and 79 also have their shot. Roughly 400,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 96 percent of long-term care residents.

However, Ontario is limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns raised with thrombotic thrombocytopenia, also known as VITT. First doses of AstraZeneca will no longer be given out.

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency had listed the risk of getting a blood clot from the AstraZeneca vaccine at roughly 4 in 1 million or 1 in 250,000.

Chief Health Protection and Emergency Preparedness Officer, Dr. Jessica Hopkins, says 8 Ontario residents have developed blood clots related to the vaccine, representing a 1 in 60,000 risk of VITT.

Elliott says Ontario will work with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to determine the next steps for the vaccine, with the province set to receive another 250,000 doses over the next week.

“This decision by the Chief Medical Officer of Health [Dr. David Williams] was made out of an abundance of caution. Those of you who received your first dose of AstraZeneca did the right thing to protect yourselves, your loved ones and your communities. Vaccines remain the best defence against this virus and our way out of this pandemic.”

The Deputy Premier adds those who have received their first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine are currently scheduled to receive their second dose by the end of June, meaning the province still has time to evaluate their options.

“Data out of the UK shows a dramatically reduced risk of [VITT] in second doses of AstraZeneca. We’re also seeing promising results of administering a second dose of a different vaccine. We look forward to providing more guidance shortly,” notes Elliott.

While AstraZeneca has been limited, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, who joined Elliott in the virtual announcement, says select pharmacies will begin administering the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to anyone over the age of 18 in hot-spot areas and anyone over the age of 40 across the province.

Sylvia JonesSolicitor General Sylvia Jones

Jones says over 2,500 pharmacies across Ontario will begin offering the two vaccines by the end of May. Jones notes the province is also hoping to allow primary care settings to offer the Moderna vaccine by the end of the month as well.

“By expanding eligibility, increasing immunization access through multiple channels and a steady vaccine supply coming into the province, we are advancing steadily toward our goal of administering first doses to over 65 percent of Ontario adults by the end of May,” said Jones.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA technology, using RNA encoded with the piece of the COVID-19 virus known as the spike protein. The mRNA then trains the body to fight off a COVID-19 infection.

Health Canada says both vaccines were about 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 in clinical trials.

Everyone is asked to continue following all public health measures and to stay home, self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known. You’re reminded you are still vulnerable after receiving one or both doses of your COVID-19 vaccine.

Further information on booking your COVID-19 vaccine can be found HERE.