Some Ontario pharmacies to administer COVID-19 vaccines in pilot project
A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared by Pharmacy Technician Supervisor Tamara Booth Rumsey at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday January 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Published Wednesday, March 3, 2021 10:21PM EST
As vaccine supply starts to ramp up in Ontario, residents could soon get their COVID-19 vaccine in pharmacies.
The Ford government and the Ontario Pharmacists Association have reached a deal that will allow the administration of vaccines in 4,600 pharmacy locations across the province.
"We have signed agreements now with the pharmacy association to allow them to vaccinate. As you know, the minister of health has expanded the number of health care practitioners who can provide vaccines," Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said Wednesday.
"So, we're ready. We have put in the bricks if you may to make sure that no matter how much vaccine we have, we're ready and able to ramp up quickly."
Justin Bates, the chief executive officer of the association, told CTV News Toronto Wednesday that a pilot project will be launched in a number of pharmacies next week in three health units – Toronto Public Health, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennos and Addington Public Health, and Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
"I think that's a great milestone to increase access and convenience for residents of Ontario," Bates said.
"We're going to start there with the limited amount of vaccine that's available and then scale up.”
Bates added that details of the pilot project are still being finalized, including who is eligible to go to a pharmacy and what vaccine will be distributed.
The province could see 46 vaccinations in a day per pharmacy, which amounts to about one million per week, he said.
"We have the resources and infrastructure to be able to add quite a few vaccinations and give ultimately, a choice and a complementary system to both public health mass immunization clinics, as well as what the role for primary care physicians are going to ultimately be," Bates said.
"This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck scenario. And pharmacies are certainly an important part of that."
When asked if pharmacists will be involved in the rollout of therecently approved Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Bates said that it is under consideration, but no final decision has been made.
The provincial government indicated that it will be using 'a different pathway' in delivering the AstraZeneca vaccine into people's arms. Ontario is expected to receive approximately 190,000 doses of the vaccine this month, including 114,000 shots with an expiration date of April 2.
The province said those between the ages of 60 and 64 will have access to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
"I think because of the supply challenges, and also because we don't want to take away from what's available in the public health clinics, whether it's the mass immunization clinics or the mobile pop-up clinics, I think they're going to look for a separate supply for pharmacy, whether that's AstraZeneca or what have you," Bates said.
"But we want to make sure what we're doing is complementary. That we're offering choice for patients, residents in the province lots of access points. We don't want to take away from the efforts that are underway for the priority populations within the other parts of the system."
- with files from CTV News Toronto's Colin D'Mello