City of Toronto launches COVID-19 Immunization Task Force to prepare for arrival of COVID-19 vaccine

COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community. There are 31,908 cases of COVID-19 in the city, an increase of 504 new cases today. There are 161 people hospitalized. In total, 26,814 people have recovered from COVID-19. To date, there have been 1,411 COVID-19 deaths in Toronto. Case status data can be found on the City’s reporting platform.

The City of Toronto has formed a COVID-19 Immunization Task Force as part of its pandemic response and recovery efforts.

While it is not yet clear when a safe and effective vaccine will be available, this Task Force will ensure that the City is ready to play its role in helping Torontonians get vaccinated. This Task Force will be led by Chief Matthew Pegg in his role as the City’s COVID-19 Incident Commander and will use the COVID-19 incident management system that the City has developed.

The Task Force has brought together staff from across key divisions including Toronto Public Health, Toronto Fire, Toronto Paramedics Service and the Emergency Operations Centre to create a comprehensive plan that will ensure that the city is ready once a safe and effective vaccine is available for Toronto residents.

All three levels of government will play essential roles to make the goals of the Task Force a success. Each has very specific roles and responsibilities in relation to the COVID-19 vaccination strategy and implementation. A clear understanding of these roles will be a key success factor as all levels of government, and community and public health agencies work together to get Torontonians vaccinated.

For example, the Government of Canada is responsible for the procurement and approval of vaccines for use in Canada. The Province of Ontario is responsible for the overall immunization strategy, which could take a phased approach, and will determine specific population prioritization and distribution of the vaccine to potential delivery agents such as public health units, doctors and pharmacies.

Once guidance from the Province is received, the City’s role will be to lead implementation at the local level. This could range from allocating and distributing allotted vaccine doses, working with medical practitioners, administering vaccines through clinics and other methods and providing data to the Province to evaluate the success of the campaign.

The City and Toronto Public Health together bring a great deal of experience to this undertaking, including the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, the yearly flu vaccination clinics run by Toronto Public Health and a full-scale emergency mass immunization exercise conducted in 2016. The lessons learned from these experiences are being applied to the COVID-19 immunization plan.