Hundreds of Torontonians as young as 12 lined up to get COVID-19 vaccinations inside city hall on Sunday.
The building, which has been closed to the public as the city grappled with the novel coronavirus, hosted a pop-up vaccination clinic, where 2,000 doses were available with priority given to residents living in hot spots.
“We thought it was important enough to open a building that has been closed during the pandemic for health-related reasons, but we wanted people to come inside,” Mayor John Tory told reporters Sunday as a lineup snaked its way around Nathan Phillips Square.
“We wanted them to feel comfortable, to feel welcome, and to make sure this public space — the ultimate public space in our city — was being put to good use.”
Vaccination stations were set up circling city hall’s distinct rotunda, while a cellist donning a mask played music from the floor above. Meanwhile, in a committee room normally used to discuss the budget, transit and other city issues, health workers loaded thousands of doses into syringes.
On the same day the province opened its online vaccine booking portal to Ontarians as young as 12, many waiting in line at city hall were so-called “quaran-teens” eager to join the almost 2 million Torontonians who have received at least their first dose.
Sam and Sacha Kopach stood in line with their father, Chad. It has been an arduous year of in-person school closures and transitions to online classes, and the siblings see the vaccine as a step toward putting that behind them.
“We thought the sooner that we got vaccinated, the better,” Sam said.
“I hope things open up quicker,” Sacha chimed in, hoping to see friends one day soon.
Chad, who had already received his first dose of AstraZeneca, said the experience made him feel proud.
“It was good to see all the young people because the last one that I went to was for myself. It was all over 40,” he said.
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The city teamed up with University Health Network to host the clinic.
As the lineup for vaccines stretched across the square, a few dozen anti-vaccine protesters clustered on eastern edge of the plaza, where they waved placards and shouted slogans under the watch of nearby police. Social media posts reported hearing the protesters tell the youth in line not to listen to their parents’ advice to get vaccinated.
Sam Kopach was unfazed by the protesters.
“I’m saying you should probably educate yourself on the pros of the vaccine. The responsibility or what you owe to others to get vaccinated,” he said.
“Be careful about misinformation … on people’s Instagram stories.”
As of Sunday, Ontarians as young as 12 can book vaccine appointments through the provincial online portal, call centre and through pharmacies offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Some teens received their shots earlier in the week at pop-up clinics in North York and Etobicoke.
Maia Al-Battran said she was elated to join her mother in getting vaccinated.
“I started jumping up and down. I was super happy. I was texting all my friends and they were all happy,” she said after receiving her shot on Thursday.
Miya Fitton, a grade 10 student who also received her vaccine on Thursday, said she overcame her fear of needles for the sake of “finally seeing her friends, family and hopefully going to school”.
“Both my parents got their vaccines about a month ago, and hopefully we can also start seeing families as well, because I know that my grandparents are very eager to come down to see us,” she said.
Ann Marie Elpa is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Reach her via email: [email protected]
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