Ontario’s 1st COVID-19 vaccines coming to Ottawa, Toronto on Dec. 15

Health-care workers in Ottawa and Toronto will be the first in Ontario to receive doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Premier Doug Ford said in a brief statement Thursday.

The first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, approved Wednesday by Health Canada, will arrive on Tuesday, Dec. 15 and will be administered at the University Health Network in Toronto and the Ottawa Hospital, according to the statement.

The first shots will go to health-care workers in long-term care homes and other high-risk settings.

Additional details on the vaccine roll-out will be released Friday, according to the premier’s office.

Ford laid out the early details of Ontario’s plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, saying vulnerable seniors, their caregivers and health-care workers would be first on the list. The province’s hardest-hit regions, including those in the red “control” and grey “lockdown” zones, would be higher priorities to receive the vaccination.

Ontario set a new provincial record Thursday with nearly 2,000 new cases of the virus. Almost 500 of those cases were linked to Toronto, while Ottawa Public Health reported 33 new infections on Thursday.

Despite the relatively lower number of daily cases in the nation’s capital, which has been in the province’s orange “restrict” level since early November, Ford said in his statement that Ottawa has been tapped as a test-case for the province’s vaccine roll-out because of the “challenges” it has faced with the virus in long-term care homes.

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“Ottawa has been selected in part to test and validate provincial distribution networks, as well as in recognition of the challenges the region has faced with certain long-term care home outbreaks,” the statement read.

There are currently nine open outbreaks in Ottawa long-term care facilities, the hardest hit being Extendicare’s Starwood care home where 183 people have tested positive for the virus and 25 residents have died with COVID-19.

Anthony Di Monte, the head of Ottawa’s coronavirus vaccine distribution task force, said Wednesday evening that the city will be ready to roll out its distribution plans next week.

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Canadian health officials have said vaccinations for the general population might begin in April, with expectations the population will be fully inoculated by the end of 2021.

There is no word yet on how many doses Ontario will receive and distribute next week, though Ford said on Monday the province is expecting a “very small number of doses.”

A spokesperson with the Ottawa Hospital confirmed the news Thursday but did not answer requests as to how many people it expected to vaccinate next week.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Health and the province of Ontario on a distribution plan for the vaccine. As part of the plan, the hospital will provide vaccinations to health-care workers who work in long-term care homes beginning next week,” the statement read. The spokesperson said the hospital would share more information when it becomes available.

A spokesperson for the University Health Network referred questions on details of the vaccine roll-out to the Ministry of Health.

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