Just one day after Premier Doug Ford’s office said they were told to be prepared for AstraZeneca shipment delays, the Ontario government has announced that select pharmacies in COVID-19 hot spots will begin to offer vaccinations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon, the government said that “as early as tomorrow,” 20 Shoppers Drug Mart locations, including 16 in hot spot communities in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region, will begin administering doses of the vaccine 24/7.
It is not clear if 24-hour vaccinations will begin at all locations on Wednesday.
The government said that when it receives more vaccine supply, it will expand 24/7 vaccinations to additional hot spots.
The announcement comes one day after Ford’s office released a statement saying that Ontario has now been informed that it should be “prepared for both shipments to be delayed until the end of May.”
The first of the shipments, an estimated 389,000 doses, was tentatively scheduled to arrive in mid-April. The province says these doses have been delayed until the end of May.
“As we look to expand our rollout of AstraZeneca to younger age groups and into more pharmacies, any delays to vaccine shipments would be devastating for Ontario right now as we battle the third wave of this pandemic,” a statement from Ford’s office reads.
“While we seek to confirm this information, the premier is redoubling his efforts to secure more vaccines by directly reaching out to our international allies for any available supply.”
Meanwhile, by comparison, Ontario is scheduled to receive 395,460 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the federal government this week, as well as 369,630 the following week and more than 780,000 doses the next three weeks.
The number of Pfizer vaccines, which are being used at mass vaccination centres and hospitals, may also increase now that the federal government has obtained an additional eight million doses.
Tuesday’s announcement also comes as the age threshold for the AstraZeneca vaccine is lowered to those aged 40 and up.
In the news release, the government has also said it will be formally allowing pharmacies to offer walk-in services. However, the government urged residents to contact participating pharmacies to find out if they are administering the shot by appointment only, on a walk-in basis or both.
There are now more than 1,400 pharmacies administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ontario.