Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown says that it would be “in the strategic best interest of the province” to prioritize hard-hit areas like Peel Region when it comes to the second phase of its vaccine rollout.

As part of the first phase of its rollout, the Ford government committed to vaccinating all residents and staff in long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel and Windsor-Essex weeks ahead of those in other areas of the province.

But it has not yet indicated whether it plans to prioritize COVID-19 hot spots as part of the second phase of its vaccine rollout, which is expected to involve the vaccination of up to 8.5 million people from a number of priority groups, including frontline workers, older adults and individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings.

During a weekly briefing at Brampton city hall on Wednesday, Brown said that he believes that there needs to be “heightened attention to the hot zones” when it comes to all phases of the vaccine rollout and called on the province to commit to doing so.

“We haven’t got the same assurances when it comes to the rollout of vaccines for the general public and I will use this as an opportunity to say that strategically it would make sense for that to be the case,” he said. “We know that the virus has been more evident in hotspots like Toronto and Peel and the notion that the vaccines will be rolled out elsewhere where there is less risk of spread I don’t believe would be in the strategic best interest of the province.”

Peel Region has had the highest case numbers in Ontario on a per capita basis for most of the pandemic, as well as some of the highest hospitalization rates.

Speaking with reporters during Tuesday’s briefing, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh acknowledged that the province will have to consider “many different community contexts” as it deliberates on how best to distribute COVID-19 vaccines once the second phase of it rollout begins this spring.

Loh, however, said that “ if you fix the problem here in Peel and the Greater Toronto area you are ultimately also protecting other parts of Ontario from spillover and spread.”

“I would echo to some extent what Mayor Brown has said,” he told reporters.

Brown optimistic stay-at-home order can be lifted March 8

Both Peel and Toronto will remain under a strict lockdown and stay-at-home order until at least March 8 but Brown told reporters on Tuesday that he is hopeful that the region can be placed back in the province’s framework in two weeks’ time.

Brown also said that he would like to see the province evaluate the placement of regions on a week-by-week basis, rather than only every two weeks.

“There are reasons for optimism where there was less so at the beginning of the lockdown,” he said of Brampton’s situation. “Hospital capacity is much better. If you looked at (William) Osler’s numbers today compared to two months ago there is a very stark difference and we are also in a much better position now that our most vulnerable residents of long-term care are going to have that vaccine protection. So I think each week that goes by right now it appears that we are getting in a better position.”