Ontario 'actively considering' prioritizing second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to hot-spot areas

After growing calls from local officials, Ontario is “actively considering” deploying more second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to hot spot regions.

Speaking to CP24 on Monday afternoon, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that at the moment the province is allocating vaccine doses to public health units based on age, risk and population.

“We are also working with the local medical officers of health and with our medical experts to determine whether we need to have extra vaccines allocated to hot spot areas,” she said. “So that is something that is being actively considered.”

Ontario allocated 50 per cent of all its vaccine supply to hot spot areas for two weeks in May after members of the Science Advisory Table recommended prioritizing those regions to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.

Instead of allocating a 50 per cent supply for four weeks as recommended, the province returned to a regular per capita allocation formula following the 14 days.

On Monday, infectious disease specialist and member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force Dr. Isaac Bogoch told CTV News Toronto there is a significant push to get second doses into arms as quickly as possible, especially for those at highest risk.

“Stay tuned. We’re going to see a shift at some point, I can’t give you a date or time, but we will see some priority allocation to hot-spot areas for second doses,” Bogoch sid. “That’s inevitable, we know that’s going to happen.”

Bogoch says discussions are ongoing between the province, the vaccine task force, and the COVID-19 science table regarding logistics for prioritizing these second doses to already hard-hit areas.

The move comes after Peel Region’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh said on June 2 that the B.1.617 variant, which was recently dubbed Delta by the World Health Organization, could displace and overtake the current dominant B.1.1.7 variant, now known as Alpha, within one month.

“Science is clear that with the new variant, the new Delta variant growing, we need to move quickly to two doses for maximum protection,” he said. “I understand that these analyses from our science table partners are preliminary, but there is discussion underway to see what it would mean in terms of accelerating second doses in regions such as Peel where the Delta variant is becoming increasingly predominant.”

On Monday, the province expanded eligibility for second-dose bookings to Ontarians aged 70 and older, and those who received their first shot on or before April 18.

Over the weekend, Ontario surpassed 1 million residents fully vaccinated.

CTV News Toronto has reached out to the Ministry of Health for further information on second dose prioritization.

With files from Kerrisa Wilson.