Toronto will close five of its mass immunization clinics and redeploy hundreds of staff to mobile teams in an effort to reach residents in areas of the city with lower vaccination rates.

More than 71 per cent of Torontonians have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine but the uptake fluctuates depending on neighbourhood.

For example, in Taylor-Massey in the city’s east end just 53.1 per cent of residents have received at least one dose and in Thorncliffe Park only 56.8 per cent of residents have gotten their first shot.

The divide has prompted the city to pour additional resources into hyper-local vaccine campaigns in recent weeks, including a series of pop-up events at grocery stores and shopping plazas in the Taylor-Massey neighbourhood planned for this coming weekend.

But with demand continuing to slow down at some of the city’s mass vaccination clinics, the city now plans to shift even more resources into local outreach.

During a regularly scheduled briefing on Wednesday, Mayor John Tory confirmed that the city will close five of its nine mass vaccination clinics (Carmine Stefano Community Centre, Malvern Community Recreation Centre, Mitchell Field Arena, North Toronto Memorial Community Centre, Toronto Congress Centre) at the end of the day on Aug. 22 and redeploy 700 staff.

He said that in doing so the city hopes to be able to increase the number of mobile clinic teams from five to 22.

The four remaining mass immunization clinics at Cloverdale Mall, the Hangar, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the Scarborough Town Centre will continue too operate until “further notice,” according to the city.

“Our mass immunization clinics have served us well and have gotten us to this point in our vaccination campaign where we have over 80 per cent of those eligible who have at least one dose so we know that we have had some success to date but we also know that in order to continue to get vaccine coverage up in those areas and in those populations in the city where we need to see more coverage we actually have to bring the vaccines to them,” Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa told reporters on Wednesday. “As of August 23rd we will have five times the number of mobile clinic teams that are currently administering vaccines across the city. This will allow us to bring vaccines directly into workplaces and into communities and organizations who are experiencing low vaccine uptake.”

Most of Toronto’s mass vaccination clinics have been operating since March.

They were initially open on an appointment-only basis but the city began accepting walk-ins at the clinics earlier this month as supply started to outstrip demand for the first time.

The clinics have administered more than one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine but in recent weeks thousands of appointments have went unbooked each week.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who is the chair of Toronto’s vaccine task force, said that the success of the clinics has effectively paved the way for the city to enter “the next phase of its vaccination program,” one that will be increasingly focused on “hyperlocal mobile vaccine team deployments.”

“This will allow us to be increasingly nimble and it will allow us to bring vaccine to people instead of relying on what has been the backbone, if you will, throughout our response which is having people come to clinics,” Pegg said.

The closure of five mass vaccination clinics in Toronto comes on the heels of Peel Public Health announcing that they would close two of their clinics to similarly focus on local outreach.