MIDDLESEX CENTRE, ONT. -- The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) is expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility in two phases this week.

Starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, those with at-risk health conditions and essential workers who cannot work from home will be able to book an appointment.

At-risk health conditions include; dementia, diabetes, heart disease and sickle cell disease, among others.

Essential workers include:

  • Essential and critical retail workers (including grocery, food bank, pharmacy, ServiceOntario, ServiceCanada, Passport Canada, wholesalers and general goods, restaurant, LCBO workers)
  • Workers in manufacturing industries directly involved in supporting the COVID-19 response, construction and other essential businesses and services where facilities are at heightened risk for COVID-19 outbreaks and spread
  • Social workers and social services staff who provide in-person client services (including youth justice workers, Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program case workers)
  • Courts and justice system workers (including probation and parole workers)
  • Transportation, warehousing and distribution workers (including public transit workers, truck drivers supporting essential services, marine and rail cargo and maintenance, highway maintenance)
  • Electricity (including system operations, generation, transmission, distribution and storage workers)
  • Communications infrastructure workers (including cellular, satellite, landline, internet)
  • Water and wastewater management workers
  • Financial services workers (bank branch staff)
  • Veterinarians and veterinary teams
  • Waste management workers, oil and petroleum workers, natural gas and propane gas workers, mine workers and uranium processing workers
  • Individuals working in unlicensed childcare centres

Essential workers will no longer need a booking code to make an appointment, but can book through self-attestation, as can those with at-risk health conditions.

At 8 a.m. on Thursday, anyone age 40 and over will become eligibile to book.

Dr. Chris Mackie with the MLHU said during the virtual media briefing on Monday that 216,000 people in the region have now been vaccinated through mass vaccination centres, pharmacies and doctors' offices.

"That's a tremendous accomplishment and it actually represents 51 per cent of the adults in this region...as with every part of the COVID response, the public interest and support is a major driver of success or failure."

Mackie admits the number includes some second doses and some people from outside the region, but says it's still an achievement that all health-care partners involved should be proud of - as well as everyone rolled up their sleeves.

The health unit also says, pending provincial notification, it is expecting to expand vaccination to adults over 30 on May 20, and adults over 18 on May 27.

Vaccination for younger ages is welcome news, as less than a week after the death of 18-year-old Owen Brandies, CTV News London has learned there are two teenagers with COVID-19 in the Pediatric Intensive Care at the London Health Sciences Centre.

"It's very important to get young people vaccinated as soon as possible," Mackie says. "Right now we are working with provincial eligibility directions, and it looks like May 27 we will be able to book people 18-30, and we very much hope that group books as soon as they possibly can."

Of Middlesex-London's 863 active COVID-19 cases, 169 are individuals under the age of 20.

Health Canada last week approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for kids ages 12 to 15, though there’s no schedule for its availability here.

Some health-care workers can book second dose sooner

In addition to expanding eligibility, starting on Friday high-risk health-care workers will be able to re-book their second dose appointments sooner than the initial four-month interval.

A full list of eligibile health-care workers is available here.

Eligible workers will need to call 226-289-3560 to re-book as it cannot be done through the online booking system.

The phone line is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

- With files from CTV News London's Brent Lale