Ontario to accelerate vaccination of residents of long-term care, high-risk retirement homes

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TORONTO — Provincial officials say they plan administer first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to all long-term care home residents in Ontario 10 days sooner than planned as at least one facility in outbreak has reported multiple cases of the UK variant.

The province provided an update this morning on their plan to administer COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario as health officials have been forced to change gears amid delivery delays from Pfizer.

The province received no new doses from Pfizer this week and Ontario will receive approximately 26,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on the week of Feb. 1, a significant reduction in the number of doses than was previously expected.

The federal government has not yet provided the province with Ontario’s allocation of Pfizer doses for the weeks of Feb. 8 or Feb. 15 but officials said shipments are expected in Canada for those weeks.

On Monday morning, officials said in light of the supply slowdown, the province needs to take a strategic approach to administering the vaccine, focusing exclusively on accelerating the vaccination of long-term care home residents as well as high-risk retirement and First Nation elder care home residents.

Ontario has pressed pause on providing first doses of the vaccine to all other groups, including health-care workers and essential caregivers in those settings.

Initially the province’s vaccine task force said its goal was to provide first doses of the vaccine to those vulnerable groups by Feb. 15 but officials now say they are working to do that 10 days sooner than planned.

The new Feb. 5th deadline is dependent on there being no further delays for deliveries, officials said Monday.

About 47,000 residents of Ontario long-term care homes have already received the first dose of the vaccine with another 17,000 or 18,000 who still have not received the vaccine.

Approximately 3,000 residents have refused the first dose, the province said on Monday.

To date, a COVID-19 vaccine has been made available to 50,000 long-term care workers and another 50,000 workers have yet to receive their first doses. Once more vaccines become available, the province said, the vaccination of workers and essential caregivers in those vulnerable settings will resume.

With the exception of long-term care and retirement home residents, second doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be pushed back 42 days to deal with the supply shortage, the province confirmed on Monday.

Another 80,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive in the province on Feb. 1 and provincial health officials confirmed a similar shipment is expected on Feb. 22. Second doses of the Moderna vaccine will still be administered within a 28-day window.

The province also said it is also trying to reallocate vaccines to provide doses to 14 of the 34 public health units that have not yet receive any doses to date.

Pfizer, the larger of two suppliers of two approved COVID-19 vaccines to Canada, said last week it would drastically reduce deliveries to the EU and Canada in February as it retools a manufacturing plant in order to boost its annual output by 700 million doses.

Premier Doug Ford, Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones are expected to speak at Queen’s Park this afternoon to address the shift in the province’s vaccination plan.

Ford has taken to assorted insults and threats to vent his frustration over the Pfizer delivery slowdown, calling the company’s official excuse about retooling a Belgian manufacturing plant “crap.”

When speaking about the delays last week, Ford, in reference to an unnamed Pfizer executive, said that he’d be “up that guy’s ying-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn’t know what hit him.”

He has repeatedly publicly appealed to U.S. President Joe Biden to send Ontario one million of its Pfizer doses as a stop gap measure.

CTVNewsToronto.ca will stream Ford’s announcement live at 1 p.m.

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