Ontario optometrists want to join the COVID-19 vaccination effort, calling on the province to allow them to administer injections.
Members of the Ontario Association of Optometrists have been in talks with the Ontario government to amend the Optometry Act that currently prevents them from giving injections, keeping them off the list of those able to aid in the vaccination rollout plan.
“There are 2,500 optometrists across the province in 200 communities,” Dr. Sheldon Salaba, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, told CTV's Your Morning on Monday. “I would say there’s a substantial portion of us that are willing to help with this initiative.”
He said that it would work similarly to when pharmacists began giving flu vaccines, and that an amendment to the Optometry Act should be fairly quick and easy.
“I think if the government is willing it can happen fairly quickly,” he said.
Vaccination efforts began in Ontario on Dec. 15 with Phase 1 of the rollout still underway.
Delays and slow rollout have plagued the vaccine distribution effort from the start, with less than two per cent of Ontario’s population receiving their first dose as of Feb.1.
The Ministry of Health said in a statement that it has allowed additional health-care providers to administer the approved COVID-19 vaccines including nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses, along with pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians.
"This will help meet the demand for vaccines and will help to facilitate the mass vaccination clinics that are expected to deliver millions of vaccine doses by the end of August 2021.This is the first step to unlocking the number of vaccine administrators needed to support Ontario’s COVID-19 Distribution Plan. Should it be determined that additional capacity is needed we will expand the list, if necessary," the statement said.
For Salaba, a large workforce ready to dole out vaccines will be integral to getting the general population vaccinated by the federal government’s goal of September, and as primary health care providers optometrists are ready to jump in and help.
“I think you’re going to need all hands on deck in order to get this pandemic under control,” he said.
While some optometrists would require training, the University of Waterloo has been training eye doctors to give injections for over a decade, and many optometrists in Ontario come from the United States where they are allowed to perform injections, Salaba said.
“We want to be part of that solution and stand alongside other healthcare providers in making sure that the vaccines can get out quickly and expeditiously,” said Salaba.
Pharmacists are also calling on the government to allow them to assist in Canada’s rollout plan once the vaccine is more widely available.