Toronto Shifts Focus from COVID-19 Clinics to Student Immunizations

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After Dec. 13, Torontonians will still be able to get COVID-19 vaccination shots from primary care providers and pharmacies. (Hau Dinh/The Associated Press)

As Toronto prepares to close four of its temporary COVID-19 vaccination sites, the city’s public health authorities are pivoting to address a new priority: catching up on routine vaccinations for school-aged children.

Closure of Vaccination Sites

Toronto Public Health (TPH) announced the impending closure of the “fixed-site” vaccination clinics located at Metro Hall, Cloverdale Mall, North York Civic Centre, and near Scarborough Town Centre after Dec. 13, due to the exhaustion of provincial funding. These sites have been instrumental in administering over 2.2 million of the 8.8 million COVID-19 vaccines in Toronto since January 2021.

Boosting Immunization Rates in Schools

With the closure of these sites, TPH’s focus is now on the province’s school children. Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Vinita Dubey, expressed concern about the gap in routine vaccinations. “We have approximately 350,000 students every year in the school system…from Kindergarten to Grade 12,” Dubey said, revealing that about 250,000 of them are missing one or more vaccines.

Seeking Provincial Funding

TPH is seeking $3.8 million from the province to address the pandemic-induced immunization gaps, focusing on its student immunization program and promoting the catch-up of vaccinations among families with school-aged children. The funding request is yet to be formally sent to the province, with the City Council voting on Dec. 13 on whether to make a formal request.

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Starting Monday anyone six months and older will be able to receive both a flu shot and the new COVID-19 vaccine. Public Health Ontario’s latest COVID-19 wastewater data shows an uptick of the virus in most parts of the province. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Ontario Ministry of Health’s Response

In response, Ontario Ministry of Health spokesperson Hannah Jensen stated that the current funding agreement expires at the end of the year and noted a 16% increase in funding to TPH since 2018, in addition to one-time pandemic funding.

Wastewater Testing and COVID-19 Prevalence

Meanwhile, wastewater testing in the GTA indicates higher traces of COVID-19, the highest rates seen in nearly a year. Dubey, however, stated that this is expected due to people moving indoors during colder weather and emphasized the importance of staying current with vaccinations.

Future of COVID-19 Vaccinations in Toronto

Post-Dec. 13, Toronto residents will still be able to access COVID-19 vaccinations through pharmacies and primary care providers. Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, underscored the importance of vaccinations, particularly during the respiratory illness season.

Gratitude and Transition

Mayor Olivia Chow expressed gratitude to residents for their participation in the vaccination efforts, saying, “As these clinics wind down, I want to thank every Toronto resident who did their part and got vaccinated.”