Toronto shifts focus to areas with lowest vaccination rates as 60% of residents fully immunized

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As Toronto approaches a new milestone of 60 per cent of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the city is launching a new campaign to shift its focus to neighbourhoods with the lowest vaccination rates.

The city said at some point on Sunday, more than 60 per cent of Toronto’s residents will have received two doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

As part of the “Home Stretch Vaccine Push” campaign, which was launched this weekend, city staff and health partners are setting up a series of clinics to inoculate residents in six priority areas in the city’s northwest, including Elms-Old Rexdale, Kingsview Village-The Westway, Mount Dennis, Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown, Weston and Englemount-Lawrence.

While Toronto’s overall vaccination rate is about 78 per cent for first doses and 60 with two shots, those rates drop to 59 per cent and 36 per cent respectively in the northwest corner of Toronto.

Speaking at a pop-up clinic at Kingsview Village Junior Public School in Etobicoke on Sunday, Mayor John Tory said while Toronto’s vaccination uptake is “terrific,” more needs to be done to reach certain pockets of the city.

“I heard this morning and this afternoon from people about how they heard about this clinic… some said they got an email, other people said they saw a poster in the lobby of their apartment building, other people said they heard about it in the news. And so we're getting to areas where there has been a lesser rate of vaccination, and we're doing it almost one vaccine at a time,” Tory said.

“We've got to work now at getting to some places where it's been a bit harder to achieve the requisite numbers, and just go neighborhood by neighborhood, sometimes building by building, sometimes apartment by apartment to reach people and to convince them that they need to be vaccinated.”

Tory said the city’s approach aims to remove as many barriers to vaccination as possible.

“Some people just don't trust the health-care system or the information they receive, whether it's an issue of hesitancy or fear that comes from vaccinations generally or things that are medical, or whether it just comes from something as simple as making sure we give them a ride,” Tory said.

“Those are the things we're doing, plus all the efforts going door-to-door, putting up posters, sending emails, sending texts, making phone calls. You name it, we're doing it to get people out.”

Earlier this week, the city opened up four of its mass immunization centres to walk-ins, including Cloverdale Mall, The Hangar, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, and the Toronto Congress Centre.

Tory said while he is pleased to see Ontario is moving forward with entering Step 3 of the reopening plan on Friday, getting people vaccinated is the only way to prevent another surge of cases.

“It is the case that we still have a concern in European countries and here with respect to the variants, and only the vaccination really is the weapon that we have against these variants and against having another wave, which none of us want,” Tory said.

“We don't want to go back and have everything closed down again and so this is a big feat for the city.”