Everyone over the age of 18 in the province's hardest hit neighbourhoods will be prioritized for a COVID-19 shot as part of Phase 2 of the province's vaccine distribution plan, Premier Doug Ford said Wednesday.

Ford made the announcement during a news conference at Queen’s Park on Wednesday afternoon, where he declared another state of emergency in Ontario and a month-long stay-at-home order to curb rising community transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Starting next week, all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel Region will be eligible to receive a vaccine and the province says it is in the process of organizing mobile teams to go into the hardest hit neighbourhoods in those two regions to vaccinate all residents over the age of 18.

The province said it will also start vaccinating all adult workers at large workplaces in hot spot neighbourhoods, a move GTA mayors have been advocating for over the past couple of weeks.

"We need to get the vaccines where they will have the greatest impact as quickly as possible," Ford said on Wednesday.

He said mobile teams will work to get vaccines to high-risk congregate settings, residential buildings, faith-based locations, and locations occupied by large employers in hot spot neighbourhoods, starting with Toronto and Peel Region.

In those settings, he said, the vaccine will be offered to people ages 18 and older.

Ford said pop-up vaccine clinics will also be set up in the hardest hit neighbourhoods. The province identified 100 postal codes that have been deemed "hot spot communities."

The premier has said these neighbourhoods will be prioritized as part of Phase 2, which runs from April until July, but did not provide a specific timeline for when younger age groups will become eligible for a shot.

The premier said he believes that if Ontario continues to receive the scheduled shipments of vaccine from the federal government, 40 per cent of all adults in Ontario will have received their first dose by the end of April.

"We have a strong strategy, a strong plan, of targeting neighbourhoods, going in to specific hot spot neighbourhoods and literally door-knocking, trying to bring people out of their homes and down from their condos and their apartments," Ford said. "We have mobile units out there as we speak going out there right now to get people vaccinated."

Some education workers now prioritized for shot

All education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel Region will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 shot starting next week and that will be expanded to other hot spot regions as vaccine supply allows, the province announced Wednesday. Those other hot spot regions include York Region, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton Region, and Durham Region.

Ford and Ontario’s education minister have vowed to keep schools open even as teachers’ unions in Ontario have urged the province to immediately halt in-person instruction amid the third wave of the pandemic.

The unions have also been calling on the province to expand vaccine eligibility to education workers to keep students and teachers safe.

Schools in Toronto and Peel Region are currently closed until at least April 18 after the medical officers of health in both regions used their powers under the Health Promotion and Protection Act this week to suspend in-person learning.