The Vaccine at the End of the Rainbow

Amid ongoing confusion and missing information, Ontario residents over 60 living independently at last have some news on when they can realistically expect to be vaccinated.

All residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes in Toronto should already have received both vaccine doses. For others aged 60 and up, the Province announced the following schedule:

  1. March 15: By this date, a provincial website will open to schedule vaccinations for residents over 80 living independently.  Shots will start being administered about a week later.

  2. April 15: ages 75 and up

  3. May 1: ages 70 and up

  4. June 1: 65 and up

  5. July 1:  60 and up

Bookings are to be made using a Provincial website and by telephone. I do not have information on how those bookings will be handled, nor do I know what the plan is for elderly residents who live in their own home but are not mobile. When the Province provides that information I will include it in a future newsletter.

Giving priority to older residents makes perfect sense given the fact that age is the largest determining factor in who gets seriously ill from COVID, with 95% of Ontario deaths being in those over 60.

But given how vaccinations in Ontario have rolled out to date, I don’t have great confidence that it will be smooth sailing from here on in.

Already, people 80 and over are signing up to be vaccinated through different appointment systems in other parts of the province where local health officials have vaccines available and chose to move ahead.

This is not the case In Toronto, where large numbers of higher-priority front-line health workers haven’t yet been vaccinated. This is because Toronto is home to about half the province’s health care system.

And we have our fingers crossed that the province’s appointment system can handle the load when it opens up in two weeks.

Because I write frequently about COVID issues, some residents assume I have some control over who gets vaccinated in what order. I don’t. The federal government is responsible for vaccine supply and the Province is in charge of distribution. I’m hoping that Toronto Public Health will be given a strong role in delivering the shots, but that will be based on provincial direction to do so and the allocation of doses to be given out according to provincial priorities.

As previously announced, Public Health will operate a vaccination centre in Willowdale at Mitchell Field Community Centre. It will be open 9 hours a day, 7 days a week, starting around the beginning of April.

Even if you live across the street, it appears that you will need to book an appointment through the provincial website. But I am expecting that those doing so will be assigned to the location closest to where they live, so many Willowdale residents may be getting vaccinated there.

Much more detailed information on the Province’s vaccination rollout is expected next week.

Other Good Vaccine News This Week

  1. Canada today approved a third two-dose vaccine, this one from AstraZeneca. It has a 62 % rate in preventing COVID infections – much lower than the 95% shown by Pfizer and Moderna, both of which use a different technology –  but Health Canada noted that none of those receiving the vaccine in trials had died or been hospitalized. The ability to store the AstraZeneca vaccine in a regular refrigerator also makes it much easier to transport and store.

  2. A fourth vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, may also be nearing approval. In addition to requiring only regular refrigeration, Johnson & Johnson uses only one dose. In U.S. clinical trials, it was found to be 72% effective in preventing moderate to severe COVID cases.

  3. In the U.S., Pfizer has been approved for storage in normal freezers, making it much easier to distribute than the previous requirement for ultra-cold freezers.

  4. Both Pfizer and Moderna are studying the use of a third booster shot to improve protection against variants.

And now, for a song when you can’t hold on – accompanied by a super fun dance compilation.