Toronto Star

Ontario’s first 6,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine due on Monday

Toronto, Ottawa hospital, LTC workers first in line


V-Day is coming to Ontario next week with the first small shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer.

Three thousand health-care workers from nursing homes and hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa will get their first shots starting Tuesday after 6,000 doses arrive Monday, said retired general Rick Hillier, chair of Ontario’s vaccinatio­n task force appointed by Premier Doug Ford.

As many as 175,000 more doses could arrive by the end of December, depending on the timing of anticipate­d Health Canada approval for a second vaccine from Moderna, Hillier told a briefing Thursday, providing long-awaited details on how the province’s vaccine rollout will take shape.

“We only have a few doses so far,” he cautioned, noting each person requires two doses of the vaccine to build proper immunity.

The first vaccinatio­n sites will be at University Health Network in Toronto and at the Ottawa Hospital but will soon be extended to 13 more hospitals with ultracold freezers for the Pfizer vaccine and up to 23 locations eventually.

Health care workers chosen for the first round are being carefully selected, Hillier said as Ontario hit a record 1,983 new cases amid fresh computer modelling forecasts the province can expect an average of at least 25 deaths a day and increasing­ly crowded hospital intensive care units forcing hospitals to limit non-emergency surgeries.

Workers in nursing homes hardest hit by outbreaks in the pandemic, which has killed about 2,300 residents and eight staff to date, are being notified they will be first in line and given appointmen­t times.

“Those staff inside of longterm-care homes that have already had COVID-19 visited upon them in such a tragic manner and those staff in the homes that have communal living, where people eat together in the kitchen and where there’s more than one resident in a room — that’s where we want to go first and have them come to the special vaccinatio­n sites,” Hillier said.

Some hospital staff working in high-risk situations will also be given shots.

Because the Pfizer vaccine requires storage at minus 70 C and the manufactur­er has adav v initial delivery sites because it can lose effectiven­ess with jostling, vaccinatio­ns for residents in their nursing homes will have to wait until the Moderna vaccine arrives.

Between 35,000 and 85,000 Moderna doses are expected by the end of the year, Hillier said.

In total, that means Ontario could receive up to 181,000 doses from the two manufactur­ers by Dec. 31, enough for 90,500 health care workers and nursing-home residents in the early stage of the first phase of the vaccinatio­n plan that does not anticipate inoculatio­ns for the general public until April.

“There are still many outstandin­g questions about exactly how vulnerable Ontarians will be prioritize­d for vaccinatio­n,” said Deputy NDP Leader Sara Singh.

Ottawa is not in lockdown like Toronto and Peel or in red zone restrictio­ns like the rest of the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, but was chosen as an injection site weeks ago because it had seen high rates of infection that caused serious and deadly outbreaks in nursing homes, Hillier explained.

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