With the UK variant of COVID-19 blamed for a deadly outbreak at Roberta Place long-term care in Barrie, the province said Monday it is going to ramp up efforts to vaccinate all residents of long-term care facilities in Ontario 10 days sooner than planned.
The government has been left scrambling because of delivery delays from Pfizer, which is retooling its European plant. Ontario received no new doses from Pfizer this week and only 26,000 doses of the vaccine will be available the week of Feb. 1. Another 80,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine are expected to arrive the same day.
The province says it needs to take a strategic approach to administering the vaccine, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups in Ontario.
This pivot means other groups who were to be vaccinated will have to wait as all eyes are now on getting jabs into residents of long-term care homes as well as high-risk retirement and First Nation elder care home residents.
“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,” said Premier Ford at a media briefing on Monday afternoon. “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.”
The province’s vaccine task force had planned to provide the first doses of the vaccine to vulnerable groups by Feb. 15 but officials say the goal now is to have the job completed 10 days sooner than planned.
The province said the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine could be pushed back six weeks, with the exception of retirement home and long-term care residents.
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 says, vaccination of workers and essential caregivers in those vulnerable settings will continue.