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

Published on April 13, 2021

Approach Will Protect Communities with the Highest Rates of Transmission


News Release

TORONTO — 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.


Quick Facts

  • As of April 12, 2021, at 8:00 p.m., over 3.3 million vaccine doses have been administered across the province, with over 87 per cent of Ontario residents aged 80 and over having received at least one dose and 24 per cent of the population aged 16 and over having received at least one dose. More than 80 per cent of residents aged 75 to 79 have now received their first shot. Over 335,000 Ontarians are fully immunized, including 93 per cent of long-term care residents.
  • Ontario is dramatically ramping up vaccination rates as supply increases. The province administered the first million doses in 81 days after the start of the vaccination, the second million doses in 17 days after reaching the first milestone, and 13 days to administer the third million doses after reaching the second milestone.
  • In March, Ontario received 1,454,310 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the first shipment of 323,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine (225,600 doses delayed until April 3) and 194,500 doses of the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine. An additional 583,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were received on April 1. In April, the province is expecting to receive 1,583,010 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and has received 122,900 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The 751,500 doses of the Moderna vaccine shipments expected in April are both delayed from the original delivery date, by approximately one week each.
  • Each public health unit is developing a vaccine plan tailored to their own community’s needs. If you are aged 18 or older and live in a designated hot spot, find your public health unit and check their website for details about mobile and pop-up vaccination in your area.
  • Employers, who are located within an identified hot-spot community and meet the eligibility criteria, can inquire about hosting an onsite clinic by contacting [email protected]
  • Eligible groups can use Ontario’s vaccine booking system to find out how to schedule an appointment, or can call the Provincial Vaccine Booking Line number at 1-833-943-3900. For general inquiries, individuals can call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line number at 1-888-999-6488. The Provincial Vaccine Booking Line and Information Line are open Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is capable of providing assistance in 300 languages.
  • Pharmacies and primary care settings participating in the rollout are vaccinating individuals aged 55 and over. To book a vaccination appointment at a pharmacy, adults aged 55 and over can visit ontario.ca/pharmacycovidvaccine to find a participating location and can contact the pharmacy to make an appointment.
  • On Wednesday April 7, 2021, in response to an alarming surge in case numbers and COVID-19 hospitalizations across the province and in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, the government enacted a Provincial Emergency and Stay-at-Home order. Ontarians are asked to limit trips outside the home to necessities such as food, medication, medical appointments, supporting vulnerable community members, or exercising outdoors with members of their household in their communities. Individuals should remain in their local communities and avoid all non-essential travel – even within the province – and stay home when ill even with mild symptoms. Employers in all industries should make every effort to allow employees to work from home.

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