The City of Toronto is planning to bring the coronavirus vaccine to high-risk workplaces in an effort to stop the spread of the disease, the city’s mayor said Monday as pressure mounted on the province to vaccinate essential workers.
Mayor John Tory says the city is currently developing the details of the plan, which will involve mobile vaccination units that are already being used in some hot-spot neighbourhoods. He stressed the plan is contingent on the availability of vaccine supply in the coming weeks and couldn’t immediately say when it would launch.
“We hope to be able to take it to workplaces . . . where we know there’s a higher risk just given all the circumstances and to other areas where we know people are more vulnerable,” Tory says. “We’re working very hard on plans to do that.”
Ontario’s vaccine rollout began in December and focused initially on immunizing some of the province’s oldest residents in long-term care and health-care workers. In recent months, it shifted in a descending order through the oldest age groups in the province, with Toronto now starting to give the shot to people 60 years and older at its six mass-vaccination sites.
But increasingly, experts in the health-care sector say essential workers who can’t work from home and often can’t self-isolate if they contract the illness should be prioritized for the shot. Intensive care-unit doctors have said many of the patients they’re treating these days are essential workers who got infected in the workplace.
Tory also urged the province to revisit requests to fund paid sick days for workers. The Ontario government has said it won’t duplicate the paid sick-leave program run by the federal government.
“If paid sick days’ time hadn’t come before this … then the time has certainly come now when we’re in the third wave, and it’s taking an even-worse toll, it would seem, in terms of ICU occupancy and hospital overload,” Tory says.
Toronto’s top doctor says workers need both targeted-vaccination clinics and paid sick days as protections against the virus. Dr. Eileen da Villa also calls the rising coronavirus case rates in the city “horrific,” stressing that the daily numbers are headed in the wrong direction. “We need both the protections for workers for paid sick leave so that they can take the right action when they feel unwell without having to worry for their family’s welfare. And of course, we need vaccines.”
A spokeswoman for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the provinces’ vaccine rollout is in alignment with the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. The province will vaccinate essential workers as part of Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout, which is scheduled to begin soon.
“Ontario’s vaccine distribution plan is focused on vaccinating populations based on age and risk,” Alexandra Hilkene said in a statement. “This approach is designed to save lives, protect those at risk of serious illness and to stop the virus from spreading.”