Mayor Doug Struthers sat in on a teleconference last week with the Province about the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine.
All 444 mayors in Ontario had the opportunity to join the teleconference on Tuesday December 8, which was held by Premier Doug Ford along with Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Steve Clark, Minister of Health, Christine Elliot, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and Retired General, Rick Hillier, who has been put in charge of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
The main purpose of the teleconference was to inform the mayors about the phases of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine will be rolled out in three phases with the first doses going to healthcare workers who provide care in hospitals and long-term care homes. Both the University Health Network in Toronto and The Ottawa Hospital were set to receive 3000 doses each early this week, and the vaccines will be administered at dedicated inoculation sites. The Province expects to receive 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of December, to be delivered to up to 14 hospital sites in various COVID-19 hot spot regions. That being said, they will continue to prioritize healthcare workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate settings caring for seniors.
By the end of January, the Province estimates that over 20 hospitals across the Province will be administering the Pfizer vaccine to healthcare workers and to long term care and retirement home residents. The approval of the Moderna vaccine will allow the Province to expand its reach and as more vaccines arrives, it will be implementing phase two of the roll out – expected to begin in late winter 2021. During this phase, the vaccination program will expand to include home care patients with chronic conditions, First Nations communities and urban Indigenous populations, including Métis and Inuit individuals. Ontario will only enter phase three of its plan once vaccines are available to anyone who wishes to get vaccinated, which is still most likely months away.
Top officials also note that the roll out may vary depending on the vaccine available. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has to be stored between -60 and -80 degrees Celsius, which limits its ability to travel, and both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines need two doses (21 days and 28 days apart respectively), further complicating the roll out strategy.
Mayor Struthers says that it is important for residents of Merrickville-Wolford to remain hopeful, but realistic about the time it will take to roll out this vaccination program. “There is a roll out, a very purposeful roll out, a very strategic roll out for the general population,” he says. “It could be late into 2021 until we have that steady, normal vaccine distribution and inoculation process completed. So we do need to keep that in context.”
However, he does want to stress to his constituents how important it is to trust that Health Canada has done its due diligence to make sure the vaccine is safe. “We live in a great country with a great health care system and we can have that assurance when vaccines are available,” he said. “While it may take time, when the time comes please, please step forward, roll the sleeve up and have the vaccine.”
Mayor Struthers encourages residents to be patient and continue to be diligent and safe while the vaccine program is rolled out throughout the Province. Last week, the Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit announced a surge in new cases in the area from 1-2 new cases each day to up to 8 new cases a day. The area also moved from a green to a yellow zone. “Not just with the upcoming holidays, but day to day, it is especially important for residents and businesses to ensure they’re doing everything they can to reduce the spread,” Mayor Struthers says. “Review your COVID-smart precautions to prevent COVID-19. This is not a time for complacency.”
At this point, Mayor Struthers notes that there are no known cases in Merrickville-Wolford and there has been no community spread. “Our residents by and large up until now get it,” he says. “So while we know there is a vaccine rolling out, it’s going to take time and so we as individuals and collectively as a community need to continue to do what we are doing, being diligent and safe.”