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Gen. Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, called out the province’s “small” allocation of COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, warning that Ontario is set to run out of doses.
“As we move forward now through January into February, the allocations of vaccines arriving in Ontario are relatively small, in fact they are small,” Hillier said. “As the number of people who await their second needle grows on a daily basis, our space to move beyond that is limited in the extreme.”
To date, Ontario has vaccinated about 50,000 people, almost entirely using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Of the 95,000 doses of this particular vaccine that has arrived in Ontario, Hillier said there are about 35,000 doses currently in freezers.
These doses were initially held back to ensure Ontario had second doses available to be distributed to healthcare workers. On Monday, the first Ontario healthcare workers who were immunized received their second Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
“We wanted to ensure, as we said form the start, that we would have a second dose available when day 21 started rolling around, and we did not want to be caught out because we weren’t sure of the supply,” Hillier said.
He added that beginning on Tuesday, these doses are being administered while the province waits for an expected shipment of 47,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week. Ontario is currently vaccinating about 10,000 people a day.
“At that rate, the Pfizer vaccines that we still have in the deep freeze that we were holdback back for the second dose, just in case, we will exhaust those by the end of this weekend,” Hillier said.
He added that by the end of next week, Ontario will be out of this week’s shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as well.
“We still do not know when the shipment that was predicted for next week of Pfizer vaccines will arrive,” Hillier said.
These comments were echoed by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who also stressed that the province needs more vaccine doses. Ford added that he expects Ontario to be the “leader” of vaccine distribution in North America.
“Once we get the machine going in Ontario, we kick butt anywhere in the country, in North America,” Ford said.
On Tuesday, the Ontario government announced its plan to vaccinate residents, healthcare workers and essential caregivers in long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex by Jan. 21.
On Dec. 30, 2020, Ontario received 53,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, which was expected to be reserved for residents in long-term care homes and individuals in remote communities. Almost 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine have been administered in 24 long-term care, as of Jan. 3. The province plans to administer about 4,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in 26 long-term care homes between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6.
Trudeau ‘frustrated’ by vaccine distribution delays
While the Ontario government says its vaccine allocation is limiting rollout plans, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “frustrated” by vaccine distribution delays in Canada.
“All Canadians, including me, are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people’s arms,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said he will be speaking with provincial and territorial leaders on Thursday about how the federal government can support in ramping up vaccine delivery, prioritizing getting vaccines into Canada’s most vulnerable populations.
“We are confident and very hopeful that over the coming weeks, the challenge will be overcome,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister maintained that by September, every Canadian who wants to be vaccinated will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine. He added that there are no concerns about vaccine doses “going to waste” in Canada.
“We have extremely strong measures in place to ensure the vaccines are...properly stored,” Trudeau said.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada and head of vaccine distribution efforts, indicated that 124,800 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are en route to Canada. Fortin said Canada is expected to receive 208,000 doses of this vaccine per week for the rest of January. He added that there are an additional 171,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine that will arrive on the week of Jan. 11.