Temporary cut to vaccine shipments 'a setback' but Watson hopeful for summer
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says recent news that shipments of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to Canada would be temporarily cut in half is a setback, but he's still hopeful life in the city can return to a semblance of normality by the summer.
On Friday, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout, said shipments of the vaccine would be reduced by half over the next month, as the pharmaceutical giant expands its European manufacturing facility.
Speaking to CTV News at Six, Watson said it does cast some uncertainty on how much supply Ottawa will have in the coming days.
"Obviously, the announcement by Pfizer is a setback," he said. "We're in a bit of a holding pattern. We would normally get about 5,800 to 6,000 doses on Tuesday. We don't know what we're going to get and that will determine how many more arms we can put the vaccine into."
As of Friday, Ottawa had received 22,245 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Watson said Saturday that 19,980 doses have so far been administered in the city.
Watson said Friday that vaccination teams had visited all of Ottawa's 28 long-term care homes and had given out the first of two doses to residents, staff and caregivers.
Despite the setback, Watson says he does believe the City has the ability to have as many residents as possible vaccinated by the summer.
Ottawa Hospital CEO Cameron Love told Newstalk 580 CFRA on Friday that they have the capacity to immunize everyone in Ottawa who wants a vaccine in the next four to six months, based on the rollout program set by the provincial government.
"I love Cameron's optimism and I hope he's right," Watson told CTV News. "I think it's all conditional on that little asterisk that we get our supply."
Watson said the City is prepared for when supplies of the vaccine come in greater numbers.
"We have a distribution system in place. Our staff have been working non-stop on this and we're ready to get to those high-priority groups: retirement homes, people over 80 and then people over 60, health-care workers and then the general population," he said. "It would be a wonderful summer gift for all of us if we're able to get everyone who wants to get vaccinated, vaccinated in the City of Ottawa and hopefully come back to a little bit more of a normal way of celebrating summer with festivals and lots of outdoor activities with family and friends."
In Ottawa, the city is planning four mass vaccination clinics for Phase 2 of the province's vaccination rollout, which begins in April, each with the capacity to administer 1,200 vaccines a day, amounting to a total capacity of more than 134,400 vaccines per month for all four combined.
Bylaw cracking down on parties, based on resident complaints
With the new stay-at-home order in effect in Ontario, Watson is urging residents to remain at home as much as possible.
He said the new order doesn't change much in Ottawa that wasn't already in place because of the provincewide shutdown that began Dec. 26, 2020—though there are some operational changes at the City—and he thinks the central message is a simple one.
"I think the message the province is trying to get through is if you don't have to go out, if you can work from home, please stay at home and if you do have to go out, you should be going out for a good reason: groceries, medical appointments or to help a loved one. The bottom line is the less contact we have with other human beings, the better it is to kill this virus once and for all," he said.
Bylaw officers and Ottawa police have the authority to enforce the stay-at-home order.
Deputy police chief Steve Bell said Friday Ottawa police would follow the lead of Ottawa Bylaw.
"Enforcement is a tool that’s going to be important for us, and we will use it in those cases where people are fragrantly violating this order," Bell said.
Watson said that amounts to things like large gatherings, which are often called in by neighbours.
"When they see parties going on, 10 or 12 cars outside of one residence, people are calling 311 to report it," Watson said. "It's not a snitch line; it's for the betterment of the neighbourhood that we don't have a super-spreader event that takes place in a particular neighbourhood. The vast majority of these complaints are coming from private residences. We have to ask people, respectfully, please don't do that because our medical experts are saying these kinds of gathering are not helpful to fighting the virus."
As COVID-19 vaccines are delivered to local long-term care homes, one Ottawa retirement home is battling an outbreak that has so far claimed the lives of four residents.
A cloudy sky will hang overhead as Ottawa cleans out from a blast of winter weather.
Ottawa Public Health is reporting 123 more people in the city have tested positive for COVID-19 and one more resident has died.