Ontario Expedites COVID-19 Vaccinations in Long Term Care as Military Lends Support

Ontario Expedites COVID-19 Vaccinations in Long Term Care as Military Lends Support
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton listen as they are briefed on COVID-19 Rapid Test Device kits at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, on Nov. 24, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Press

Canada’s largest province plans to administer the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in all nursing and high-risk retirement homes by the middle of next month as it works to boost its immunization capacity.

The Ontario government says it is stepping up immunizations in long-term care homes now that it has protocols in place to safely transport the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has strict storage requirements.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford also says the federal government has once again offered the support of the military, which was sent to help the hard-hit long-term care sector during the first wave of the pandemic.

Ford’s office says the province has requested and is currently receiving help in the form of military field hospitals, military logistics advisors to bolster the vaccine rollout, and Red Cross teams in a selection of long-term care facilities.

Long-term care has borne the brunt of the pandemic, accounting for more than 3,000 of the province’s more than 5,000 deaths from COVID-19.

The province reported 74 more deaths from the virus today, and 2,961 new infections. It also said more than 11,000 vaccines have been administered since its last daily report.

An order requiring Ontario residents to stay home except for essential activities is set to take effect at midnight, one of several measures the government announced Tuesday as new projections showed its health-care system is on the brink of being overwhelmed.

In Quebec, where officials have implemented a curfew in an effort to reduce the strain on health care, 2,071 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded today. Thirty-five more deaths were also reported.

The province says it administered 7,855 doses of the vaccine yesterday, for a total of 107,365.

Meanwhile, seven residents of a Montreal long-term care home who received a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have tested positive for the virus.

A notice sent Tuesday to patients at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre noted residents were infected in the first 28 days after they received the first of two vaccine doses.

The province has decided to delay doling out second doses in favour of administering a first dose to as many people as possible—a strategy acknowledged this week by the country’s panel of vaccine experts.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says briefly delaying the second dose of a vaccine could allow more people to get a first dose sooner, though it stresses efforts should be made to follow the recommended schedules for administering the shots.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada has secured enough of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to immunize every Canadian who wants it by fall, but most won’t arrive until spring and summer.

By Paola Loriggio