Ottawa's COVID-19 vaccination campaign takes a major step forward this week, with the city beginning to vaccinate residents 80 and older in high-risk neighbourhoods.
A new COVID-19 vaccine eligibility tool has been launched on Ottawa Public Health's website, to determine if you are able to book an appointment this week. The tool asks whether you identify as Indigenous, whether you have a chronic medical condition and receive home care services through Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), and what year you were born. It then asks for your postal code.
"This is a big week for us in Ottawa," said Mayor Jim Watson during an interview on CTV News at Six on Sunday.
According to the city, only residents who were born in or before 1941, or who are adult recipients of chronic home care, and who live in the following communities will be able to book appointments:
If you are in one of these neighbourhoods, you will be asked to call 613-691-5505 between 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Service is available in multiple languages.
Pop-up clinics will be operating in these locations. Dates and times will be confirmed when you make your appointment.
Albion Heatherington Community Centre, 1560 Heatherington Road
Sawmill Creek Pool and Community Centre, 3380 D’Aoust Avenue
Assunnah Muslims Association Community Centre, 1216 Hunt Club Road
You must provide proof of residence to receive a vaccine at one of these clinics. If you do not live in the above-listed neighbourhoods, you are not eligible to receive a vaccine at this time. Walk-ins will not be accepted.
"Accommodations will be made for residents who need help with accessibility and all sites are accessible. If you are a Para Transpo user, you can book your ride to the pop-up clinic like you would normally do," the City of Ottawa says. "If a transportation option is not available to you, you can request a ride to and from the clinic when you book your vaccine appointment."
The Ontario government has identified adults aged 80 and older and adult recipients of chronic home care as priority groups to receive COVID-19 vaccinations during Phase 1 of the plan. Caregivers, partners or roommates who were born after 1941 are not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time.
"Community clinics are also expected to open later in March for all other Ottawa residents who were born in or before 1941, or who are recipients of chronic home care, pending vaccine delivery. Booking for these appointments will begin in mid-March," the City said in a media release on Monday. "More information will be available in the coming weeks on how to book these appointments. Please do not call the booking phone line regarding these appointments at this time."
(CTV News Ottawa/Ottawa Public Health/Google Maps)
IF YOU'RE TURNING 80 THIS YEAR, YOU'RE ELIGIBLE
The vaccine is available for residents in the above-listed neighbourhoods who were born in or before 1941, meaning if you're 79 but turning 80 later this year, you are still eligible to book an appointment now.
"If you turn 80 this year, you can go. You don't have to be over 80. If you have a birthday and you turn 80 later this year, then you're still eligible to go to these over 80 clinics as long as you're in those catchment areas," said Watson.
"Once we get those areas done, we'll then release more information on where the broader general public can go. As you know, it will go by ages – 70, 60 and so on."
The city of Ottawa is using the same system Ottawa Public Health used to book appointments during the influenza immunization campaign, and will shift to the new Ontario system when it launches.
Ottawa has received 61,280 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. As of Monday, 50,508 doses had been administered.
In Ottawa's Heron Gate neighbourhood, there is a sense of relief that some residents will be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine this week.
"This neighbourhood, like other working class neighbourhoods across the city, has experienced very high levels of COVID transmission," says Josh Hawley of the Heron Gate Tenant Coalition. "In fact, Heron Gate has the highest level of COVID in the city."
"A sizeable amount of people who are vulnerable will be vaccinated. It is good news because if they’re getting vaccinated, it’s not just protecting them it’s also protecting others," said one resident in Heron Gate on Sunday afternoon.
Ottawa Public Health spent the weekend sending automated phone calls to home-care patients in some higher-priority neighbourhoods with information about receiving the vaccine.
"Some people have asked, 'why are you focusing on just those 20 or 21 different neighbourhoods?'" said Watson.
"We're doing that because they have very high incidence of COVID-19, sometimes 16 times higher than the rest of the city. So these are areas that are considered hotspots and we need to get to them as quickly as possible."
The city of Ottawa has already completed administering the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in long-term care homes, while 94 per cent of retirement home residents have received the first dose.
A University of Ottawa epidemiologist says vaccinating residents over the age of 80 is a good step forward.
"This is the beginning of the end," said Raywat Deonandan. "It is great news, and its great Ottawa is ahead of the curve. If we can harden the community dwelling elderly, then we stand a much better chance of riding out a third wave."
MORE COVID-19 VACCINE DOSES ON THE WAY
On Friday, Health Canada approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for use in Canada.
CTV News at Six anchor Christina Succi asked Mayor Watson if the city can open mass vaccination clinics earlier if more doses arrive in Ottawa.
"The more supply, we will open our centres, our main geographic centres, even sooner," said Watson.
"But we have to make sure that we have that supply, because we don't want to get people coming to one of the centres … and we don't have supply and we have to send people back. That's not fair to them.
"So we've got to build up that supply; but as soon as we can get confirmation on delivery and receipt of that vaccine, we will obviously not wait until the 15th of March. If we can do it ahead of that, all the better."
Ottawa plans to open seven COVID-19 mass vaccination clinics, operating from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. They have the capacity to deliver nearly 11,000 immunizations per day.
The planned clinic locations are:
Ruddy Family YMCA-YWCA, 265 Centrum Blvd.
St. Laurent Complex, 525 Coté St.
Horticulture Building, Lansdowne Park, 1525 Princess Patricia Way
Canterbury Recreation Complex, 2185 Arch St.
Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W
Nepean Sportsplex, 1701 Woodroffe Ave.
Eva James Memorial Community Centre, 65 Stonehaven Dr.
There will also be a clinic at the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus and a second hospital clinic at the Queensway Carleton Hospital.