City of Ottawa officials admit the Ontario government's decision to expand COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults 18 and older this week created "a challenge," but they insist everyone who wants a shot will receive a dose.
There are currently no available appointments at Ottawa's community clinics between now and the end of June, and over 172,000 appointments are booked at the clinics over the next six weeks.
Ontario expanded the eligibility to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults aged 18 and older on Tuesday.
"It didn't take long for the city's remaining vaccine appointments for May and June to be snapped up," said Anthony Di Monte, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services.
"If we get additional vaccine, more appointments will be added to the system and we'll let you know. I've said it before and I'll say it again today, every Ottawa resident who wants a vaccine will get a vaccine. That goes for second doses as well as first doses."
Within three hours of the eligibility expanding to all adults 18 and older on Tuesday, more than 40,000 appointments were booked in the city of Ottawa and all available appointments were filled until the end of June.
Di Monte said 172,000 appointments at Ottawa's community clinics have been booked between today and the end of June.
"As our team has proven over and over again, once more vaccines become available we are ready to ramp up quickly and adapt based on vaccine supply and the demand for appointments," said Di Monte, adding the city has explored the feasibility of opening drive-thru vaccine clinics and other clinics if supply increases.
As of Wednesday, 496,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in the city of Ottawa. A total of 53 per cent of eligible adults aged 18 and older have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
There is no word on when the city of Ottawa will receive confirmation of more doses to make more COVID-19 vaccine appointments available.
"I would appreciate having more vaccine and that will come," said Di Monte, noting there are regional differences with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
"The download this week was perhaps a little quick for us regional, but elsewhere in the province maybe it wasn't. The decisions are being made provincially and for the benefit of the entire population of Ontario. For Ottawa, it did give us a bit of a challenge, but I think that will be picked up. As soon as we get more vaccine, we'll make it available."
Mayor Jim Watson, Board of Health Chair Keith Egli, medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches and Di Monte met with Ontario cabinet minister Lisa MacLeod and provincial health officials on Wednesday to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Ottawa.
"We did anticipate that it would be 30 and above this week, and then found out that it would be 18 and above. That did create a challenge for sure," said Egli.
"On the plus side, we got over 40,000 people registered in two and a half hours to get vaccinated."
Egli says the city is also raising concerns about booking second doses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
"There's been some frustration around the issue of booking second dose appointments for COVID-19 vaccine," said Egli, noting Ottawa Public Health and Councillors have received calls and emails expressing frustration with the booking system.
"I want to reassure residents that second doses will not be released, and details on how and when to book a second dose appointments will be communicated shortly."
YOUTH 12 TO 17
The city of Ottawa is planning to open dedicated COVID-19 vaccine appointments for youth 12 to 17 in mid-June.
Ontario announced all youth 12 to 17 will be eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccine the week of May 31.
"Our team is planning to operate dedicated clinics for youth and their family members during the weeks of June 14 and 21," said Di Monte.