Ontario is pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on administering the shots to all nursing home residents amid a shortage of doses.
The government says the shift in the focus of its vaccine plan means all long-term care home residents, high-risk retirement home residents, and First Nations elder care residents will get the first dose of the vaccine by Feb. 5. That’s sooner than a previous goal of Feb. 15, but the earlier plan had included the vaccination of long-term care staff and caregivers as well.
To protect access to second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those who have already received their first shot, the Ford government says it will maintain the maximum interval of 21-27 days for long-term care and up to 42 days between the two doses for all other groups.
The province is currently dealing with a delay in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with no shots expected to arrive this week.
Additionally, doses of the Moderna vaccine will be reallocated to 14 public health units to ensure vaccines are administered at each long-term care home in Ontario.
“We can’t take vaccine shipments for granted,” Premier Doug Ford said on Monday. “Due to the delay in the next shipment of Pfizer vaccine doses, we are ensuring all available supplies are redirected to those who need them most: our residents in long-term care and retirement homes.”
“I know this will mean that some people may have to reschedule their vaccine appointments, but it is critical that our most vulnerable seniors receive the protection they need as soon as possible,” Ford added.
The government says it expects 26,325 Pfizer-BioNTech doses next week, which are far fewer than the amount originally expected. As of Monday, Ontario has not been provided its allocation for the weeks of Feb. 8 and Feb. 15 creating further uncertainty for the province’s vaccine rollout.
On Monday, the province said roughly 47,000 residents of Ontario long-term care homes have received their first doses with another 17,500 or so who have yet to be treated against the virus.
Approximately 3,000 residents have refused the first dose.
“We acted quickly to protect our seniors, our most vulnerable populations, and those who care for them. We introduced reforms to our long-term care system, including a commitment to deliver a nation-leading standard of an average of four hours of care per day for each and every long-term care resident,” the Ford government said in a news release Monday.
NEW: Premier Ford begins news conference by saying he has spoken with Israeli officials to discuss vaccine rollout – it has been lauded for it's quick immunization program. #covid19
— Cynthia Mulligan (@CityCynthia) January 25, 2021
The province has said that people over the age of 80 will be the first priority group to receive the shot when Ontario enters the second phase of its vaccine rollout in April.
Those eligible to be vaccinated as part of Phase 2 include:
- Older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
- Individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
- Frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, teachers, food processing industry); and
- Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.
In early Jan., the City confirmed that immunization clinics were held at 87 of Toronto’s long-term care homes.
“Despite ongoing challenges with supply, together with our partners, we continue to vaccinate our most vulnerable as quickly as possible, and we continue to be ready to administer vaccines to Ontarians as soon as we receive them from the federal government,” said Minister Christine Elliott.
“Until there is sufficient supply to vaccinate every Ontarian who wants to receive one, we continue to urge everyone to stay home and continue to follow public health measures.”
After facing pressure and backlash from opposing governments, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by phone last week as the delayed doses force provinces to cancel vaccination appointments and reconsider timing for second doses.
Since mid-Dec., Canada has received just over one million doses of the vaccine. The government expects to have enough doses for every Canadian by September, with the Prime Minister maintaining that anyone who wants a vaccine by that month, will be able to get one.
Ford reiterated that on Monday, saying, “It is our hope that by the summer, anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get [one].”
A total of 286,110 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province so far.
Ontario is reporting 1,958 new cases of COVID-19 today and 43 more deaths linked to the virus.
With files from The Canadian Press