How many pharmacies are there in Ontario
The introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario has reached a pivotal moment. More supplies are added every week, and the province says it is on track to deliver at least one dose to 65 percent of adults by the end of May.
But three weeks after Ontario's top doctor said the province could "well over" 500,000 vaccinations a day with ample supplies, the province is nowhere near that level.
Health officials say the daily average has been 97,200 for the past few weeks, while the daily record, set just yesterday, is 141,038 shots.
So what's the best Ontario could do if vaccine supplies weren't an issue? CBC Toronto reached out to all 34 public health units running the local rollouts and Ontario's Pharmacy Association to find out.
Our results show that the actual sales figure appears to be closer to roughly 373,000 doses per day - although this remains an estimate due to inconsistent data from some public health units.
The CBC Toronto number does not include vaccine data from primary care centers. In addition, seven public health units did not provide any data. In some cases, including Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, the numbers are counted twice for the daily vaccine delivery capacity given in pharmacies.
Dr. Barry Pakes, program director of public health and preventive medicine at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said 500,000 doses a day isn't unrealistic with the right resources and infrastructure - but that's not currently the case.
“If all the vaccines arrived today [could we do] 500,000 a day? No, absolutely not, "he said." Could we increase our capacity in these mass vaccination clinics by about 50 percent? I absolutely think we could. "
Experts realized that Ontario cannot vaccinate its way out of the devastating third wave of COVID-19 that has broken the provincial health system. However, the success of the vaccination campaign will make a big difference in easing public health restrictions (a nationwide stay-at-home order remains in place) and possibly preventing a fourth wave of infections.
Canada's largest province expects more than four million doses of vaccine by the end of May - so it will soon have a chance to step up its efforts.
The latest figures show that 43 percent of Ontario's adult population received at least one shot.
Public Health Ontario released data this week showing the power of vaccines. To date, only 2,223 people who were partially or fully immunized have been infected and developed COVID-19. More than 5.5 million doses have been administered in Ontario.
The introduction of vaccines depends on where you live
The local health authorities continue to lead the vaccination effort.
According to Dr. For example, Isaac Bogoch, a member of the Ontario Vaccine Distribution Task Force, can deliver approximately 57,000 vaccines per day to Toronto. That figure takes into account mass vaccinations and hospital-run clinics, as well as mobile and pop-up sites and recordings dispensed in pharmacies and doctor's offices for primary care.
CLOCK | Ontario will give 65% of adults their first dose of vaccine by the end of May:
In a press conference Wednesday, Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the province is on track to give 65 percent of adults first doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of May. 1:16
In the neighboring Peel region, which, like Toronto, has a large number of provincial designated COVID-19 hotspots, that capacity is roughly 32,000, Bogoch said. However, a Peel Public Health spokesperson told CBC Toronto that the number is closer to 16,500.
It's lower elsewhere. Most public health units can give anywhere from 1,100 to more than 10,000 vaccinations per day. Seven Health Units didn't say how many they could do if supplies weren't a problem.
Bogoch said it was difficult to comment on the 500,000 figure Williams mentioned because he wasn't sure where that figure came from.
CBC Toronto has asked the Ontario Department of Health several times for clarification on this number but has received no response.
The more realistic and achievable goal for Ontario is 150,000 vaccines per day, Bogoch said.
"When we're around 150,000 a day, we're doing something right," he said. "This is basically the same as vaccinating the US at a very fast pace."
What needs to be changed to increase the vaccination rate?
Bogoch said several factors must work together in order for Ontario to get more shots in the arms, including: getting adequate vaccine supplies, running multiple vaccination sites simultaneously, and using more people to administer shots.
Pakes, who did that job at GTA, said a more user-friendly booking system, better communication from the province, and a streamlined, centralized approach would also help.
"We have never had a health system that connects hospitals, primary care, specialty care, laboratories and pharmacies," he said. "This is a barrier that we cannot overcome during this pandemic, but we absolutely need to think about it."
Bogoch said one key to reaching 150,000 daily doses is getting more pharmacies and first-aid providers to offer COVID-19 vaccines.
Currently, around 30 percent of Ontario pharmacies have been able to deliver vaccines, and the province is working to expand that.
"The sustainable long-term goal is vaccination through primary care and through pharmacies," said Bogoch. "We really need to focus, of course, on expanding their role across the province."
The province has stated that general practitioners contacting eligible patients for vaccines are important to the vaccine launch, but has not released any information about expanding their role.
The Ministry of Health did not answer any questions on the matter.
Hotspot popups take more manpower, hours
Both Bogoch and Pakes say there still needs to be a focus on vaccinating people in hot spot areas.
The Flemingdon Health Center CEO last month helped run the province's largest hotspot pop-up clinic in Thorncliffe Park, a neighborhood in east Toronto where 3,000 people received their first dose.
"It took dozens of community health ambassadors, dozens of clinicians and dozens of administrators, and a large physical room to get delivered in about nine hours," said Jen Quinlan.
In order for pop-up clinics to increase vaccination rates, it will take more space, time and staff, she said. In some cases, staff who would work on pop-ups are instead helping in hospitals where the situation is dire, Quinlan added.
Quinlan also suggests enabling more healthcare providers to administer vaccines. She points to a community health center that trains a handful of podiatrists (foot specialists) to give injections.
She also said it would help if more employers had clinics so key workers can access vaccines during paid working hours.
There are nine employer-run clinics in Toronto and Peel this month.
Both Quinlan and Pakes say Ontario will soon hit a cap - anyone wanting to get vaccinated will be booked before the focus is on hesitation and people who have fallen through the cracks.
“Then it really is up to us, as community leaders and organizers, to make sure that those who have difficulty getting access and the relevant information about what is safe and how to access it can really be targeted . ”Said Quinlan.
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