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Head of Toronto’s Immunization Task Force says he is confident the city will be able to meet vaccination target

Head of Toronto’s Immunization Task Force says he is confident the city will be able to meet vaccination target
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The head of Toronto’s Immunization Task Force says he is confident the city will be able to meet an ambitious target set by retired general Rick Hillier, who is overseeing the COVID-19 vaccination rollout in Ontario.

“I have no concern that our city will be able to hit, if not exceed, 100,000 a day,” said Chief Matthew Pegg, who is also in charge of emergency operations for the city.

Pegg spoke to the Star on Friday, after announcing earlier in the week that the city will operate nine, large vaccination clinics across the city, and is ready to swing into action as soon as the province delivers more vaccines.

The first phase of the vaccine campaign targeted elderly residents of long-term care homes, healthcare workers and those at greater risk of acquiring the virus or suffering serious complications from COVID-19.

A spokesman for the province said that, pending delivery of vaccines, phase two could begin as early as March, as 8.5 million people become eligible to receive the vaccines.

First up will be older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older, and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout, according to David Jensen, Ministry of Health spokesperson.

People living in high-risk congregate settings will be next, along with first-responders, education workers, people who work in the food-processing industry and people with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.

“Steps are underway to identify the sub populations within each phase-two category, followed by a plan for sequencing vaccination within the categories,” said Jensen.

The Star followed up with Chief Pegg for more details about the city’s vaccination plan. His answers have been edited:

On Wednesday, you said nine city-operated immunization clinics will be vaccinating 120,000 people a week in Toronto. General Hillier has instructed all 34 public health units in the province to be ready to deliver 10,000 vaccine doses a day, and in places like Toronto, 100,000 a day. How is Toronto planning to do that?

The nine clinics are really the backbone of what will become an immunization network. We are identifying additional community centres that we could bring online on an as-required basis. Our city-operated sites will be supported by a network of hospital-operated clinics and community partners, family physicians and pharmacies.

Can you define hospital-operated clinic and partner-operated clinic?

Hospital-operated clinics include clinics inside hospitals and clinics operated by hospitals at other locations. One quick example of community partners would be, our Indigenous Affairs Office is doing a lot of work with our Indigenous community leaders and we expect that some of the Indigenous communities will sponsor and run and operate vaccine clinics.

Looking at the list of nine city-run vaccination clinics announced this week, there appear to be a couple of gaps — for example, in Thorncliffe Park and central Scarborough. Why won’t there be a clinic in either of these high-needs locations?

I have every confidence that we’ll see a significant number of clinics added to the map, once the hospital partners come on board, and, if you overlay that map with the network of family physicians and pharmacies, there, ultimately, will be a lot of opportunity across the city.

Some locations in the U.S. are offering drive-through vaccinations, are we likely to see that in Toronto?

It’s a possibility, but not something we’re looking at right now. Our climate makes it a real challenge.

The other challenge is how to effectively and appropriately manage the post-vaccine aftercare. Generally, for most people it’s about 15 minutes. After they’ve received their vaccine, they sit and they’re actively monitored by an after-care team that includes specially trained first-responders and nurses, just from an abundance of caution, to make sure that no one has an adverse reaction or an allergic reaction to the vaccine. Doing that in a drive-through environment in cars, it becomes much more challenging. Our climate also makes vaccine management more challenging for staff, because there are temperature-control issues.

Will people be able to chose what vaccines they receive?

It’s not something that we’ve talked about, but understanding the way the clinics work, I certainly can’t envision a circumstance where a clinic is offering more than one vaccine, just because the logistics, the controls and all of the syringe loading and all of these things, are significantly different between Pfizer and Moderna.
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