TORONTO: Ontario has reached a key milestone in the fight against COVID-19, completing the first round of vaccinations ahead of schedule in all long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex, the four regions with the highest COVID-19 transmission rates.
The first round of vaccinations has also been administered at all long-term care homes in the Ottawa Public Health Region, Durham Region and Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit.
“This is the first of many victories to come against this deadly and ruthless enemy we face,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“We are making steady progress, but we will not rest until the residents and staff of every long-term care home and all Ontarians have had the opportunity to get a vaccine. Only then will we be able to get our lives back and return to normal.”
To date, more than 40 percent of all long-term care homes across the province have had an opportunity to receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 83,000 long-term care residents, staff and essential caregivers have been vaccinated.
“Meeting this milestone is an important step towards keeping our most vulnerable and those who care for them safe,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
“While we continue to vaccinate our loved ones, we must remember that our long-term care homes are still at risk from community spread. It’s important that all of us continue to stay home as much as possible and follow the public health measures so we can stay safe and save lives.”
Progress continues to be made with the goal of administering vaccines in all long-term care homes across the province by February 15, 2021.
“To have the first round of vaccinations completed at long-term care homes in these hard-hit regions is a significant achievement, and I’d like to recognize all those who contributed to this effort,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“Together with our partners we continue to expand our capacity and we are ready to administer more doses as soon as we receive them.”
As part of Phase One of its vaccine implementation plan, Ontario will continue to focus on vaccinating vulnerable populations, and those who care for them, as more supply becomes available. On January 15, the province was alerted by the federal government that due to work to expand its European manufacturing facility, production of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine will be impacted and Canada’s allocations of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for the remainder of January and early February will be reduced.
To respond to this change in supply of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has provided updated direction on the administration of second doses:
• Long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents and their essential caregivers, who have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, will receive their second dose in 21 to 27 days.
• Staff who were vaccinated within the homes at the same time as the residents will also follow the same schedule.
• All other recipients of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine must receive their second dose after 21 days and before 42 days.
• For individuals who received the Moderna vaccine, the dose schedule of 28 days will remain.
“The remarkable first stages of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout demonstrate how much we can accomplish when Ontarians work together to protect our most vulnerable citizens and frontline essential workers,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones.
“We’ve been laser-focused on meeting the Premier’s challenge to complete first dose vaccinations to our most vulnerable in the four key areas by January 21,” said General Rick Hillier (retired). “I want to commend the tremendous effort of everyone involved in achieving this milestone ahead of schedule because this is their success.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontario has invested $1.38 billion to ensure that long-term care homes have the resources they need to battle this virus.
The government has also taken action to address urgent staffing shortages, including issuing management orders, enabling the deployment of hospital staff to longterm care homes and the use of infection prevention and control teams.
• The province’s vaccine strategy prioritizes the most vulnerable populations first, including residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes in regions with high COVID-19 transmission rates, who are at higher risk of contracting the virus.
• As the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines continues, the Ontario government is investing an additional $398 million during the second wave of the pandemic to reduce the risk of the virus entering long-term care homes from the community.
• During the second wave, Ontario has enhanced testing requirements for long-term care home staff and essential caregivers, recognizing how important it is to identify a case of the virus before it can spread from the community into a long-term care home.
• To address long-standing staffing challenges, the government has launched one of the largest recruitment and training drives in the province’s history to deliver on its commitment to provide an average of four hours of daily direct care for residents.
VAUGHAN: The Ontario government is providing up to $125 million to immediately add over 500 critical care and high-intensity medicine beds to hospitals in areas with high rates of COVID-19 transmission. A portion of the funding will also be used to temporarily transition Mackenzie Health’s Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital into a systemwide resource supporting the province’s COVID-19 response when the new hospital is scheduled to open on February 7, 2021. These initiatives will help relieve pressures on nearby hospitals due to rapid increases in hospitalization and ICU occupancy rates.
“The Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital is the first newly built hospital in three decades and this net new capacity will be critical until we are in a position to widely administer vaccines across the province,” said Premier Ford.
“I want to especially thank Mackenzie Health for stepping up to allow us to temporarily use this new facility to support our COVID-19 response and take pressure off other hospitals in the region. It’s these kinds of innovative partnerships that make a world of difference in our fight against this deadly virus.”
Initially, Mackenzie Health’s Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital will provide a total of 185 beds, including over 35 critical care beds and 150 general medicine beds, which will support patients from other hospitals and alleviate hospital capacity pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once COVID-19 capacity pressures have stabilized, the new hospital will provide care and services to patients from across the western York Region as originally planned, including emergency and modern surgical services, and offer advanced diagnostic imaging capabilities, intensive care beds, medicine, birthing, pediatrics and mental health services, as well as the York Region District Stroke Centre.