Toronto will host a mass vaccination clinic for school-aged children at Scotiabank Arena next month as it seeks to use the home of the Maple Leafs for a different type of shot than the ones that usually come off the stick of Auston Matthews.

The city has announced that it will make 2,000 appointments available for children aged five to 11 during a one-day clinic at the downtown arena scheduled for Dec. 12.

The clinic will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will also include giveaways and music and entertainment throughout the day.

The announcement of the large-scale clinic comes on the heels of the vaccination of the younger age cohort getting underway last week following Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine the week prior.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore says that more than 68,000 children aged five to 11 have already received their first dose, accounting for about 6.4 per cent of those who are newly eligible to get vaccinated.

“It is a brilliant initiation for this strategy and I hope that volume of individuals continues so they (school-aged children) are best protected going into the holidays when we can anticipate seeing more cases,” he said during a briefing on Monday.

Highest number of school outbreaks since April

The effort to vaccinate younger children has taken on a renewed importance as an increasing number of COVID-19 outbreaks are declared at public schools.

There are now 189 outbreaks at Ontario schools, including 174 at elementary schools where most students remain unvaccinated.

It is the highest number of simultaneous outbreaks in schools since the peak of the third wave in April.

Back then the number of schools with outbreaks reached a high of 210 before officials ordered that all schools switch to remote-learning only following the delayed spring break.

Schools then remained closed until September, marking the second straight year in which in-person learning was heavily disrupted.

This year public health officials have insisted that they will prioritize keeping schools open, with plans to use raid antigen tests to ensure students returning to classes following the winter break have not contracted COVID-19.

There are, however, some worrisome trends beginning to present themselves in the data.

According to the latest figures provided by the Ministry of Education on Monday, there are now 1,591 active cases associated with Ontario’s public schools after another 131 new cases were reported over a 24-hour period ending last Friday afternoon.

Over the last week the number of active cases associated with the public school system has risen 25.7 per cent, outpacing the growth in Ontario’s active caseload during the same time period (21.7 per cent)

There are also currently 16 schools that are closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks or for operational reasons related to the pandemic.

That is nearly double the number of closures (nine) that were in effect at this time last week.

A count by CP24 has also determined that at least 155 individual classrooms in Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area school boards have been switched to remote learning following positive cases.

That is up 30 per cent from this time last week but is likely an underrepresentation of the true extent of the problem as some boards don’t publicly report the data.