By David Goldberg

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged that every Canadian who wants the COVID-19 vaccine will receive one by September and Ontario optometrists say they’re willing to step up to assist with the rollout of the provincial government’s vaccine implementation plan.

“We know that the Ontario government is looking to increase the public’s access to the COVID-19 vaccine,” says Dr. Sheldon Salaba, president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO). “Optometrists can help with this by providing vaccinations in-office or in vaccination centres.”

Provinces like Quebec have enlisted the help of eye care professionals, chiropractors and even veterinarians to help administer the vaccines.

However, in Ontario, optometrists do not have the authority to administer injections. The Optometry Act would have to be amended. Doing so would bring quick and easy access to the vaccine to a large portion of the population, including the province’s most vulnerable patients, the association says.

“Optometrists are the most accessible eye health and vision care professionals, and are available at the local level across the province,” added Dr. Salaba. “We can make a difference to help keep Ontarians safe.”

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said that the Ontario government was not planning to enlist the help of optometrists at this time.

“Additional health care providers who are able to administer the vaccine include nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses, along with pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians,” the ministry said in a statement to Optical Prism. “Should it be determined that additional capacity is needed we will expand the list, if necessary.”

Premier Doug Ford has said that he expects millions of Ontarians to be vaccinated by August this year.

At the time this article was first published, just over 50,000 Ontarians had received the vaccine so far.