Ontario’s government is providing an extensive look at what officials have managed to accomplish throughout Phase 1 of its COVID-19 vaccination rollout amidst continued criticism that it’s moving too slowly.
In an update on Tuesday, the government said it hopes to safely vaccinate all residents, health care workers, and essential caregivers at long-term care homes in the priority regions of Toronto, Peel, York, and Windsor-Essex by Jan. 21.
A second dose will be necessary following this date as both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require multiple shots. The interval between Moderna doses is 28 days; for the Pfizer vaccine, it’s 21 days.
As part of Phase 1, the province confirmed that 95,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech and almost 53,000 doses of Moderna vaccines have been delivered. Gen. Rick Hillier has said that an estimated total of over two million doses is expected in this phase.
“To date, 44 vaccine sites have been established with over 50,000 people vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine,” the government said in a release.
“…Nearly 3,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were administered to 24 long-term care homes by Jan. 3. Over 4,000 doses to 26 long-term care homes of the Moderna vaccine are planned to be administered between Jan. 4 and Jan. 6.”
Ontario will continue to focus on vaccinating vulnerable populations, and those who care for them, as more become available.
On Monday, frontline workers at Toronto’s Rekai Centre and in Ottawa all received a necessary second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. Back in December, Anita Quidangen became the first person in Ontario to be safely inoculated against the virus.
The other half of the doses were intentionally held back to give the same health-care workers their required second dose three weeks later.
A decision to temporarily close immunization clinics over the holidays was met with widespread outrage last week, prompting Hillier to admit the move was a mistake.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford, who was present as Quidangen and four others received their second dose, acknowledged there have been “a few bumps in the road” in the province’s immunization campaign.
In past updates, Ford and his government have laid out similar details to their vaccine rollout, saying Phase 2 will see health care workers and long-term care residents receive the shot starting in early 2021, with most of Ontario getting inoculated as part of Phase 3.
The Ford government believes that by Jan. 20, over 20 hospitals in Ontario will be administering the Pfizer vaccine.
“Due to the allocation of ultracold freezers, there are currently a fixed number of sites that can administer this product,” the province said with regards to the Pfizer vaccine.
“We are developing protocols to safely move the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine beyond the point of delivery and will be rolling out those protocols so that the vaccine can be brought to places like long-term care homes.”
Ontario will enter Phase 3 when vaccines are available for every provincial resident that wishes to be treated.
Moderna’s shot, which also requires two doses to reach its full efficiency, is regarded as “a more stable vaccine, with fewer temperature storage restrictions.”
The province is expecting an additional 56,000 doses of Moderna’s treatment by Jan. 11 with deliveries to follow every three weeks. The focus will be on vaccinating long-term care residents, staff, and essential workers by the end of the month.
The Pfizer vaccine showed an efficacy of 95 percent at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection while the Moderna vaccine was 94.1 percent effective, measured starting from 14 days after the second dose.
Indigenous Communities, including long-term care and chronic care residents in Sioux Lookout, are also set to begin receiving vaccination treatments sometime this week.
In addition to providing supplementary details to its province-wide rollout, the government said it is investing around $398 million to reduce the risk of the virus from entering long-term care homes from the community.
“Ontario continues to make important progress in quickly and safely vaccinating our frontline health care workers, our most vulnerable and those at greatest risk, and we continue to administer doses to thousands of Ontarians across the province,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said.
“Our Vaccination Distribution Task Force, led by General Rick Hillier, has put a plan in place to get these doses distributed and administered as quickly as possible and that plan is working.”
Federal health officials project between 40 and 50 percent of the Canadian population will have gotten their vaccine shots by June.