Ontario is pausing COVID-19 vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers so that it can focus on administering the shots to all nursing home residents amid a shortage of doses.
The province announced the change of focus on its vaccination plan Monday as it deals with delays in deliveries of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with no shots expected to arrive this week.
The government said the shift will mean some of the most vulnerable seniors will receive the first dose of the vaccine by Feb. 5.
“To reduce the risk of severe illness and death for the most vulnerable populations, health officials are accelerating the vaccination of long-term care, high-risk retirement, and First Nations elder care residents across Ontario,” the government said.
The government had initially promised to complete the vaccination of all long-term care home residents, staff and caregivers by Feb. 15.
Health-care workers who have already received their first dose will still get a second, but the province said that shot may be delayed by up to 42 days depending on supply.
The province said Monday it has administered the first dose of the vaccine in 479 long-term care homes, and 540 retirement homes.
The government said it expects 26,325 Pfizer-BioNTech doses next week, which are far fewer than the amount originally expected.
A total of 286,110 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province so far.
The government also said it will reallocate vaccines to ensure that 14 public health units that have not yet received the vaccine can begin to immunize residents in long-term care this week.
Ontario is reporting 1,958 new cases of COVID-19 today and 43 more deaths linked to the virus.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on the government to give the first vaccine shot to all long-term care residents by Friday.
“We have to do far more than just wait for the vaccine in long-term care homes,” Horwath said in a statement. “Especially with the more infectious B117 variant knocking at the door of long-term care homes.”
Liberal health critic John Fraser said the government’s plan will save lives, but chided it for moving slowly on the vaccine rollout.
“Let’s be clear though, Ontario didn’t need to be in this position,” he said in a statement. “Ontario had enough supply to vaccinate all 72,000 long-term care residents by the end of December 2020. Yet our limited vaccine supply has not been getting to those who need it most.”
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