The federal vaccine supply appears stable. The provincial website to schedule vaccinations seems to be functioning well. Multiple vaccination locations are opening up rapidly across the city.
Now, as we are prioritizing ages where most deaths have occurred, who would have thought that our biggest problem would be getting people to sign up?
Residents 80 and older in Toronto were able to start booking website appointments starting March 15. When not enough did, the age limit was lowered to 75. Today, with thousands of openings still sitting empty at city clinics, the age has been lowered to 70. It was announced today that those in the new 70-74 age group (defined as those born in 1951 or before) can start booking an appointment starting 8AM tomorrow morning (March 27).
To book an appointment visit www.Toronto.ca/covid19 and click the big blue button at the top of the page. To book by phone, call the Provincial Vaccine Information Line at 1-888-999-6488. While we are counting on friends and family members to assist those who need help making an appointment, Toronto Public Library staff are also reaching out to seniors with library cards to offer some assistance.
North York General Hospital and other health care providers are also taking bookings through their websites for those 70 and over. You can find a link to North York General’s website here: https://nygh.on.ca/covid19vaccination. As well, local pharmacies are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine for those 60 and over. You can find the location nearest you here.
Timing of a Second Dose for Older Residents
I have heard from some older residents who have received their first vaccine dose but are worried about the current four-month wait for a second shot. I share that concern.
All two-shot vaccines were initially approved with a 21 or 28 day maximum interval between doses. But due to an extreme initial shortage of vaccines, combined with studies showing a very high degree of protection two weeks after receiving the first dose, Health Canada’s science advisory panel said that doses could be spread out by up to four months.
Based on that guidance, the provincial government established an automatic four-month interval in all cases. The intention was good – to get first doses into more arms faster – but not all situations are the same. This week, a study showed that a single dose might not provide the same high level of protection in older people. The study looked at the creation of antibodies in a laboratory setting, not how the vaccines are performing in real-life situations. Still, the federal advisory panel is now reconsidering its advice and may have new recommendations next week, with a shorter time between doses in some age categories.