'Very encouraged': Local mayors respond to Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination plan
KITCHENER -- Mayors from across the province received an update today on Ontario's plan to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available.
Doses of the Pfizer vaccine are set to arrive in the province starting next week and all of Ontario's 440 mayors got an update from Premier Doug Ford on how it's going to work and how communities in the area might be involved.
"I feel very encouraged and very reassured about the plans that are in place," Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie said. "The phone call really reassured me."
Minister of Health Christine Elliott said the vaccine won't be mandatory in the province, but anyone who doesn't receive it could face restrictions.
"There may be some restrictions placed on people that don’t have vaccines for travel purposes, to be able to go theatres and other places," Elliott said Tuesday. "That will be up to the individual person to decide whether they want to receive the vaccine to be able to do these things or not."
The province plans to hand out documentation so people can prove they've received the vaccine.
"This is a province-wide logistical issue and they've really got a good handle on it," Guthrie said.
Guthrie said they learned there will be nearly two dozen locations across the province where the vaccine will be available.
"Twenty-three sites across the province have been identified," he said. "Those will be released in the next couple of days."
Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said Waterloo Region would be a natural choice, since there are three hospitals in the area.
"I would certainly hope, with a region our size, that we will certainly see one here," Vrbanovic said. "I can't imagine a scenario where we don't."
The mayors said they were told the first batch of vaccines would be distributed as equitably as possible. Cities will also likely be called on to help during vaccine rollout.
"Certainly we stand ready to support the province, the health care sector, our regional public health unit in terms of any of our facilities, if they become necessary as part of the rollout in the coming months," Vrbanovic said.
"Cities on the local level are really going to need to step up and help where we can," Guthrie said.
They also said the entire process is expected to take a year or more.
"We cannot let our guard down just because a vaccine is about to be rolled out," Guthrie said.
"It's going to be important for all of us to continue to practice strong public health measures in the months ahead," Vrbanovic said.
Once the vaccine is approved by Health Canada, Ontario officials said the vaccine will roll out in three phases, starting with long-term care homes, retirement home residents and staff at those homes.
Health-care workers will also be vaccinated in the first few months of the program.
With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca