The City of Toronto says that residents 50 years old and over living in all hot spot neighbourhoods in the city will be able to book an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot starting Friday morning.

The change will come into effect at 8 a.m. on April 9 for those living in one of 53 postal codes identified as being in COVID-19 hot spots. Eligible residents will be able to book an appointment at city-run immunization clinics.

“This expanded eligibility is part of the Phase 2 Team Toronto vaccine rollout, ensuring every dose available is used to protect the most vulnerable,” the city said in a release.

An additional 265,518 residents will become eligible to book an appointment after the change.

Some clinics serving hot spot areas in the city started providing vaccine appointments to those 50 and older last week as part of Phase 2 of the provincial vaccine rollout.

The change in Toronto comes a day after the province announced that it would drastically expand its Phase 2 vaccination effort to include all adults older than 18 years old in hot spot areas. The plan had previously called for those 50 and up living in hot spot areas to get a shot in Phase 2.

Peel Region announced Thursday that it will lower the booking age threshold to 50 on Friday for all of its residents.

It is not yet clear how quickly Toronto will lower the threshold in its hot spots.

The city has said that it is also planning to use Ontario Health Teams, hospital mobile clinics and pop-ups to vaccinate those 18 and older in hotspot areas.

Phase 2 is slated to run to July and the province and local health units have said their vaccination efforts will depend on supply.

So far, the province has focused on vaccinating older people as they have been the ones most at risk of serious health outcomes from COVID-19.

Clinics in various municipalities have been vaccinating people according to a patchwork of eligibility criteria, but have reported ebbs and flows that have resulted in some vaccination appointments going unused.

Recently, critical care doctors have also said that they are seeing a growing number of younger patients being hospitalized with the virus. Doctors have said that the more contagious variants of concern appear to produce more severe cases of illness in younger patients and have urged the government to widen its eligibility parameters.

Province has started hitting 100,000 jabs a day

Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination effort managed to reach more than 100,000 people for the second day in a row Wednesday.

Figures published by the provincial government show that 108,563 people received a shot on Wednesday after 104,382 people got a dose on Tuesday, when Ontario cracked the 100,000 doses per day mark for the first time.

Those numbers represent a sharp increase from Monday when 76,199 people got a shot and from Sunday when 52,452 people got a shot.

The province has seen a gradual ramp-up in its vaccination program as supply has increased in recent weeks, but has struggled to hit consistently high daily numbers.

While there has been a steady increase in the number of people getting vaccinated each week, provincial officials have faced criticism that they could be vaccinating even more quickly. The province, in turn has said that they are limited by the supply provided by the federal government.

On Monday, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu tweeted numbers showing how many doses the federal government had delivered versus how many doses each province has administered.

According to the figures, Ontario has received roughly 1.5 million more doses than it has administered, prompting reporters to ask Premier Doug Ford why there are doses sitting in freezers.

“We just got them two days ago,” Ford responded Tuesday, saying distribution takes time. “Over the last few days, they just literally landed on our doorstep.”

Published figures show that the federal government delivered more than a million doses to Ontario last week. Ontario's share of AstraZeneca doses acquired from the US through a loan agreement — 583,400 doses — accounted for more than half of the shipments and they were only delivered to the province between Thursday and Saturday.

Canada's vaccine rollout has been slower than many other countries and Ford has consistently blamed the federal government for not acquiring doses more quickly.

However vaccine shipments have been ramping up over the past few weeks. According to the federal government, Ontario is set to receive around 400,000 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine each week through the end of May.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who heads Canada’s vaccine effort, said Thursday that shipments of that vaccine are expected to increase in June.

In the next three months, we expect to receive over 17 million doses of Pfizer BioNTech alone,” Fortin said at a briefing.

Ontario is also receiving 303,100 doses of Moderna’s vaccine this week and another 448,400 doses are expected to arrive in the province between April 19-25.  

Close to 123,000 AstraZeneca doses from the COVAX program are also expected in Ontario this week.

It is not yet clear when doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine might start arriving or whether the US might supply Canada with additional AstraZeneca doses through the loan agreement.

Public health measures still needed in the interim

Provincial officials said Wednesday that the modified Phase 2 vaccination efforts will include mobile and pop-up vaccination programs at large workplaces and high-rise buildings in hotspot areas to try and reach more people faster.

However officials in Toronto warned Wednesday that despite widened vaccination efforts, strict public health measures are still required to reduce the spread of the virus while most people remain unvaccinated.

A four-week stay-at-home order and state of emergency came into effect for Ontario Thursday as COVID-19 case counts soar amid a third wave and threaten to overwhelm the healthcare system.

The city is urging all those who are eligible to book appointments to do so as soon as possible, including those who have previously become eligible.