It was just a year ago that most Torontonians spent their spring scouring Twitter feeds and WhatsApp groups for available vaccine doses to protect against COVID-19.

But on Thursday Toronto officials lauded the success of the local vaccination campaign as the city counted its 7 millionth dose. 

“Seven million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in a city of 3 million people. This is an absolutely incredible accomplishment,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said at a news conference with Mayor John Tory at the Metro Hall vaccine clinic. “I simply cannot say it strongly enough. One year ago if you had told me that we would reach this milestone in Toronto, I don't think I would have believed it.”

Last May most people were scrambling to find a first or second dose of the newly available vaccines at a patchwork of pop-up clinics and mass vaccination sites across the city.

Now, vaccines are readily available at most pharmacies and at the designated city vaccination sites and among those five and up the city has managed to achieve a vaccination rate of 91 per cent for first doses and close to 88 per cent for second doses. Third doses lag behind at around 53.5 per cent among those 5+, though the city points out that among those 18 and over who are currently eligible to get a booster, the number is 65.7 per cent.

While the vaccine campaign has exceeded expectations, Tory said he is still concerned that some people may have become complacent about getting all the shots they are eligible for.

“I'm happy at the fact that Torontonians can see the city and see themselves moving to a different stage of the pandemic where life is a bit closer to normal, but I'm concerned that we still have lots of ground to make up with respect to third and fourth doses in particular, and that people shouldn't conclude that our efforts are over and that their consideration of getting vaccinated is over because it shouldn't be,” Tory said.

COVID-19 infections skyrocketed across Ontario in recent months due to the highly infectious Omicron variant and scientists estimate Ontario is currently seeing around 80 to 90,000 new infections per day. But vaccination, coupled with the fact that Omicron seems to produce less severe illness in many people, has blunted the impact of the virus.

While existing vaccines proved to be less effective at preventing symptomatic infection against Omicron than they were against previous variants, they still did a good job of protecting against severe illness. A recent study by Quebec’s public health institute showed that two doses proved to be up to around 77-85 per cent effective against hospitalization while a third dose boosted protection against hospitalization to around 98-100 per cent.  

Tory said his own experience with the virus would likely have been worse if he hadn’t been vaccinated.

“I believe the reason that my symptoms passed in a day and a half at my age was because I had been triple vaccinated. I don't think there's any question about that,” said Tory, who is 67. “Seven days spent at home was way better than seven days spent in the hospital and that continues to be true.”

De Villa said Thursday that data from Toronto Public Health show that between December and April, an unvaccinated person was twice as likely to end up In hospital because of COVID-19 than someone who  had three shots.

With most health restrictions now lifted, much of the population has resumed normal or semi-normal day-to-day life, even while infection rates remain high.

However the scientific Director of Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table recently cautioned in an interview with CP24 that while Ontario seems to be on the right track at the moment in terms of declining infection rates, a new variant could produce a wave of infections in the summer or fall.

“So I will just say to people, congratulations on the seven million. Thank you for stepping forward to get vaccinated. You have contributed to your own health and the collective health of all of your fellow Torontonians,” Tory said. “Thank you to the team who did it, but our job is not over.”

Information on vaccine eligibility and vaccination locations can be found on the city’s vaccine page.

- With files from The Canadian Press