The city’s first COVID-19 vaccination clinic will open at the downtown Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Jan. 18, Mayor John Tory announced Monday.
Opening three months ahead of schedule, the clinic will administer vaccinations to 250 front-line health-care workers a day, including those who work in shelters, and public health workers who will in turn administer the vaccine to others.
“In response to a request from the province, the city will be opening a large COVID-19 immunization clinic next Monday, quite a few weeks earlier than originally planned,” said Tory, speaking at a COVID-19 update from city hall.
He said that within hours of receiving the request to open the clinic, Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, the general manager of the Office of Emergency Management, had everyone concerned on a conference call on New Year’s Day, planning how to get the site up and running as quickly as possible.
“I know that we’re all tired of video meetings, but believe you me, there was no better way to start 2021 than with an urgent call about how we could help speed up vaccine rollout to our front-line workers,” Tory said.
“This program will allow all of us to refine the immunization clinic concept so that we make sure we get it right in all the clinics we will have in operation across the city when vaccine is available for the general public.”
The MTCC is at 255 Front St., near Union Station.
The federal government is responsible for obtaining the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, while the province is responsible for distributing the vaccine and deciding who gets it and in what order, and the city is responsible for setting up the administration of the vaccines locally.
Toronto received 50,000 vaccines in 2020 and was scheduled to receive 50,000 more at the beginning of 2021. The first vaccines were administered in the city in December.
The province is currently in Phase 1 of its three-phased vaccine distribution implementation plan. The first vaccines are being given to health-care workers in hospitals, long-term-care homes, retirement homes and other congregate care settings. The MTCC clinic will not be open to the general public.
So far, residents and staff in all 10 of the city’s owned and operated long-term-care residences have been vaccinated and the city is working with hospitals to vaccinate residents and staff at the other 77 long-term-care homes in the city, Tory said.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, reported 978 new cases of COVID-19 in the city Monday, with 433 people in hospital and 115 in intensive care. As of Monday, 2,064 people in the city had died of COVID-19 since the first case was diagnosed in early 2020, and 71,078 had been infected.
“Our data shows us that, as we discussed at the last briefing, COVID-19 is now spreading at levels so serious that it is hard to describe,” said de Villa.
“What we are seeing now is the consequence of too many people spending too much time together in December and in particular during the holidays.”
She urged people to be more cautious, leaving home only for essential reasons, which include shopping for groceries, for medical reasons and for exercise.
Francine Kopun is a Toronto-based reporter covering city hall and municipal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @KopunF