Ontario rolls out 3-Phase COVID-19 Vaccination Program

Canada has approved both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for use across the country.  Each of these vaccines require two doses, administered at 21 to 28 days apart, for individuals to develop infection fighting response. In Ontario, the government released a 3-Phase Covid-19 Vaccination Distribution Implementation Plan which is overseen by a COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution Task Force. The Plan will be rolled out in the following phases:

Phase 1

Vaccines are available to health care workers and essential caregivers who work in:

  • hospitals
  • long-term care homes
  • retirement homes
  • other congregate settings caring for seniors
  • adult recipients of chronic home health care

The intent is to deliver the vaccine to those with the highest risk. Initially vaccination sites will be limited to locations in hospitals as the vaccine storage at low temperatures limits transportability. In early January additional hospital sites and Public Health Units will begin providing vaccines in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection. The Moderna vaccine is transportable so as it is received it may be taken to long-term care homes and retirement homes to support vaccination of residents as well as to high risk First Nations communities.

Phase 2

This is expected to begin later this winter. During phase two, pending consultation, vaccinations will be expanded to:

  • all members of the groups in phase 1
  • additional congregate care settings (for example, shelters)
  • adults over 70 in expanded regions

Occupational therapists who do not work in hospitals or long-term care homes or any setting identified in Phase 1 will become eligible in Phase 2.

Phase 3

The province will enter phase three when vaccines are available for everyone who wants to be immunized. The ethical framework, data and available vaccine supply will help to prioritize groups in this phase. Vaccines will not be mandatory, but Ontarians are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated.

View Government's January 13, 2021 Vaccination Distribution Update 

Ethical framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution

An ethical framework is guiding vaccine prioritization and distribution across the province. This will ensure that decisions related to vaccine distribution priorities are consistent, fair and transparent. The framework is built around the following principles;

  • Minimize harm and maximize benefit
  • Equity
  • Fairness
  • Transparency
  • Legitimacy
  • Public trust
The task force will use the ethical framework and the best available data to identify other priority populations within Phase 2 and 3, based on available vaccine supply.

Ontario Guidance for Prioritizing Health Care Workers for COVID-19 Vaccine
Utilizing the framework the Ministry has issued guidance intended to balance provincial consistency with the need for regional and local flexibility. View the Guidance document.

COMPLIMENTARY WEBINAR - Ontario COVID-19 Vaccine distribution: progress to date - January 11, 2021
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario has shared this informative update on COVID-19 Vaccination Distribution which was recorded January 11, 2021 and features a comprehensive update from with Dr. Dirk Huyer, Member COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force. View the archived webinar here.

Implications for Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists are encouraged to be vaccinated. As health professionals are identified as priority population, OTs are encouraged to monitor the Ministry Vaccination website regularly for evolving direction. OTs working in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, and congregate living arrangements for seniors will be amongst the first priority stream with first access for those in high-risk regions of the province. Members are encouraged to link directly with their employer or contracting organization to ensure they are on vaccination lists as they are developed.

OSOT will continue to monitor information regarding vaccinations, and assess the impact on occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants and students in all sectors of the health care system for any needed action.