The city released thousands of new COVID-19 vaccine appointments this morning as officials report that more than 25 per cent of eligible Toronto residents have already received their booster shot.

In a news release issued on Thursday morning, city officials confirmed that staff will be working through New Year's weekend to provide more than 14,000 new vaccination appointments. 

The appointments, which were added to the provincial booking system at 8 a.m., were made available after the city opted to include additional days of operation and hours at its city-run clinics from Jan. 1 to Jan. 3.

The city also confirmed Thursday that more than 25 per cent of Toronto residents who are 18 and older have received their COVID-19 booster dose.

“Team Toronto and all of its partners are working hard heading into the holiday weekend to get eligible residents vaccinated with their first, second and third doses of COVID-19 vaccine,” the news release read.

In an effort to slow the spread of the more infectious Omicron variant, which has led to a rapid surge in cases across Ontario, all adults who received their second dose at least three months ago are now eligible to receive their third shot. Officials believe waning immunity has led to a rise in cases and a third dose will provide better protection against infection when it comes to Omicron.

But many in the province have struggled to book a shot within the next month due to a shortage of available appointments.

In some regions, residents under the age of 18 have been asked to hold off booking a booster shot appointment to give older, more vulnerable residents a chance to snap up an available appointment.

Ontario reported nearly 4,400 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, including close to 1,300 new infections in Toronto.

Downtown neighbourhoods seeing high case rates

A handful of densely populated downtown neighbourhoods are seeing some of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission in Toronto, according to recent data.

Information published on the city’s website indicates that Waterfront Communities, a downtown neighbourhood bounded by Queen and Front streets to the north, Bathurst Street to the west and the Don Valley to the east, is seeing a case rate of 881 per 100,000 people. Toronto’s Niagara neighbourhood, which is adjacent to the Waterfront area, is seeing a case rate of 837 per 100,000.

Little Portugal, according to the city’s heat map, is currently reporting 848 cases per 100,000 and in Trinity Bellwoods, the case rate is 749 per 100,000.

“The most recently published data suggests that (Waterfront Communities) is a hot spot in the city,” Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s top public health doctor, told CP24 on Wednesday night.

“What that reflects is the youth of that particular neighborhood.”

She said case rates are currently highest among people ages 20 to 39.

“That is a neighbourhood where many individuals who are younger adults live," de Villa said.

She said Toronto residents have “lots of tools in our toolbelt” to help curb transmission.

“Of course we have to remember that vaccines are one of those tools,” she said.

“The more we are able to reduce our interactions, especially at this time given the transmissibility of this particular variant, the more we will be able to reduce transmission. We just have to practice these self-protection measures.”