Over 20,000 adults under 50 in Toronto COVID-19 hot spots have signed up on a vaccine registry, but they won’t be able to actually get shots unless University Health Network gets more vaccines, says its president.
The province announced last week that people aged 18 and up in high-risk forward sortation areas (FSAs), known by the first three letters of postal codes, are eligible to get the vaccine.
But how and where has been left to hospitals and local boards of health, which have been encouraging people in that group to look out for pop-up sites. They cannot register for city-run mass vaccinations clinics on the provincial portal.
UHN opened up registration to this group in three hot zones late Monday afternoon in order to get an idea of how many people want the vaccine, CEO Kevin Smith told the Star.
“We saw basically a hundred people every five minutes signing up,” he said.
“We went out with a view to cross our fingers and hope that we would see people sign up, and it’s fantastic that we have. The bad news is that now that they’ve signed up we’d really like to find the vaccine to get those people inoculated ASAP.”
There are now 21,600 people on that list, who live in M6E, near Eglinton Avenue West and Dufferin Street, M6H, in the west-end near Bloor Street and Dufferin, and M5V, an area along the downtown waterfront. UHN has paused the registry for the group, until they can figure out more supply, or if these individuals can be transferred to mass city vaccination clinics.
The hospital network has about 4,000 doses left, all scheduled to be given to people with appointments. On April 19, they will get 2,000 doses, and 3,000 more on both April 26 and May 3, Smith added. Based on that, they will need to close the Toronto Western Hospital clinic by next Monday, and take the MaRS clinic site down to 25 per cent.
Smith, who said he has had discussions with the Ontario vaccine task-force about demand outstripping supply, would like to see if there’s any vaccine left in freezers that could be redirected towards the 18-to-49-year-olds still waiting. Almost 3,000 people 50 and up in the same postal codes have received shots or been scheduled for them through UHN so far.
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“Are there parts of the province, with the greatest of respect, where it’s very under control, we’re not seeing red hot zones of transmission and could we decrease the amount flowing to those zones in order to eradicate it in the areas where we’re really on fire?” he asked.
William Osler health system is also booking for the younger age group in Etobicoke’s M9R, M9V, and M9W (which includes Rexdale), Mississauga’s L4T (Malton) and Brampton’s L6S, (Bramalea).
But as of Tuesday evening, they were full. New appointments will continue to open up over the next few days, said a tweet from the hospital network’s official account.
Smith said 18-to-49 year-olds in hot spots are also likely to be essential workers, may not have sick days, and often live in cramped housing with older family members — all risk factors for COVID-19.
Smith said he’s “not looking to blame anybody” and he understands “everybody wants this stuff, it’s kind of the liquid gold of our moment.”
But “time is of the essence” to make sure the limited vaccines get to those who need them most, “who could most help to stop the transmission of this illness.”
With ICUs full with record highs of patients, and surgeries starting to be cancelled, “this is the hottest it’s been,” he added.
“We’re at this peak right now and we’re really worried about the next week or two.”
May Warren is a Toronto-based breaking news reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11
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