Ontario reached a new milestone on Wednesday: administering over 100,000 shots of COVID-19 vaccines in a single day.
The premier celebrated the achievement and declared that 40 per cent of adult Ontarians will be vaccinated within four weeks, when the province lifts the stay-at-home order it just announced. You can read more about that here.
But the moment wasn't reached without controversy. The Ford government has been under increasing pressure to deliver its COVID vaccines faster — leaving fewer in the freezers at all times — and more effectively so that Ontarians most at risk from the virus are protected.
Here are four data visualizations that explain those issues.
Vaccines in freezers
This first visualization shows Ontario's vaccine gap — or the difference between how many doses the province has received from the federal government and how many have been administered to people. The gap tends to grow after the province receives a large shipment of vaccine and gradually shrinks until another shipment comes in.
With regular large shipments scheduled over the coming months, Ontario will have to pick up the pace of vaccinations to keep up and get citizens vaccinated. If the province can keep up the rate of 100,000 shots a day through all of April it will have delivered 5.5 million shots by the end of the month. So far, the province is scheduled to have received 6 million shots by then.
The chart also shows what's possible beyond April. The former head of the vaccine task force, retired general Rick Hillier, made it his goal to have all eligible Ontarians who want one receive a shot by June 20 — the first day of summer. Hillier did not make it clear what he meant by "eligible." The federal government is now projecting the country will have receive 44 million vaccine doses by the end of June and Ontario's share would be about 17 million — enough to achieve that goal.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) published a statement that came to that conclusion on Wednesday.
"Based on Canada’s expected vaccine supply with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) alone, extending dose intervals up to four months will allow 90 per cent of adults over 50 years of age and 75 per cent of adults aged 16 to 49 to receive a first dose of vaccine by the middle of June 2021," it said.
The vaccination gap, in days
Another way of looking at the vaccination gap is not how many doses remain in their vials, rather than in arms, but for how long they do once Ontario receives them. The next chart shows the time, in days, it takes for the province to have distributed the total supply it had on any given day. Again, this metric shifts as time goes on because supply comes in intermittent shipments, rather than a steady rolling basis. The average is eight days.
Equity and efficiency
But protecting the province from COVID-19 isn't just about speed. The better the province can do at targeting its early vaccinations to people most at risk of death, hospitalization and illness, the better it will be at preventing deaths, hospitalizations, illness and the overall spread of COVID-19.
ICES, an independent non-profit that has special access to Ontario health-care data, released an analysis of vaccination rates by forward sortation area — neighbourhoods defined by the first three postal code characters.
It shows a disturbing trend in Toronto and Peel — the areas with higher vaccination rates have lower burdens of COVID deaths and hospitalizations and the areas with the highest disease burden have lower vaccination rates.
ICES found this is a provincewide trend, but it's driven by those two large, hard-hit public health units, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, program leader of the populations and public health research program at ICES.
He said the residents of the hardest-hit areas are facing barriers to accessing vaccinations. For example, they tend to have a high proportion of front-line workers and they, especially those who juggle multiple jobs, may not be able to take the time off to attend an appointment. Meanwhile, more affluent residents who live in areas with lower disease burden could have more time to navigate the various booking systems run by pharmacies, mass clinics, and hospitals to secure a spot.
Public health units, according to provincial policy, are making outreach efforts to high-risk areas but, so far, they haven't been enough.
"So you'd expect that higher risk areas should be prioritized to get the vaccine, and we're seeing lower coverage rates in those areas compared to the low-risk areas," said Kwong. "So I think that was a bit — I don't know if surprising — but I guess the extent of it was maybe surprising that there was quite a substantial gap between the high risk and low-risk areas."
Kwong recommended the province remove the age threshold completely in the high-risk hot-spot areas the province has identified — and plans along those lines were announced later in the day.
The scatter plot below shows this disparity that currently exists and, as you can see, it's most pronounced in Toronto and Peel. You can select a public health unit using the drop-drop menu. It places each forward sortation area according to the rate of hospitalizations and deaths on the horizontal axis — with higher rates of those serious outcomes on the right — and the rate of vaccinations on the vertical axis — with higher rates on top.
And a map
Another way of looking at the geographical disparity is on a map. This visualization allows you to see the vaccination rates in different postal code areas.
And a bonus map on hot-spot locations
On Wednesday, the province announced that all adults 18+ living in hot spots in Toronto and Peel will be eligible for vaccination, followed by those who live in other hot-spot areas. You can use this map to search your postal code and find out if you live in a hot spot.