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A registered pharmacy technicians at St. Michael's Hospital, in Toronto, prepares a syringe with a COVID-19 vaccine, on Dec. 22, 2020.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Supply delays mean Ontario won’t meet its goal of giving all nursing-home residents the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Friday.

Health officials said all long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care home residents will now receive their first shot by Feb. 10.

“As a result of recent delays in shipments, the province has updated its goal of visiting these settings to administer first doses,” health officials said in briefing documents.

It’s the latest change to the government’s vaccine rollout targets because of unstable supply.

The government said it expects to receive about 80 per cent fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the first two weeks of this month, and approximately 20 per cent fewer Moderna shots this week.

The government had initially said it planned to administer first doses of the vaccine to all long-term care home residents, staff and caregivers by Feb. 15.

It changed that plan last week because of a drop in shipments from Pfizer, saying vaccinations of long-term care staff and essential caregivers were being put on hold so that doses could go to vulnerable nursing-home residents.

At the time, it said those residents would get their first doses by Feb. 5.

The province said Tuesday that it will earmark shots arriving in the coming weeks for second doses that need to be administered to those who got their first shot. Those doses must be provided within the 42-day window recommended for full immunization.

Health officials noted, however, that they are not currently holding back doses in order to ensure second shots.

They said Pfizer shipments are set to return nearly to previously expected levels starting Feb. 15, with over 285,000 doses to arrive over two weeks.

The province said that once supply stabilizes, it will expand immunization efforts to once again give vaccines to long-term care staff and essential caregivers.

A total of 344,615 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Ontario so far, with more than 134,000 going to health care workers and more than 59,000 to long-term care residents.

The large number of COVID-19 infections in some places makes it more likely for new variants of the virus to emerge. Science Reporter Ivan Semeniuk explains how vaccines may not be as effective against these new strains, making it a race to control and track the spread of variants before they become a dangerous new outbreak.

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