In the face of a COVID-19 vaccine supply shortage, Ontario health officials have announced that they are pushing back the plan to have first doses administered in all nursing homes and high-risk retirement facilities.
The province had hoped to get needles into arms by Feb. 5, but now says Feb. 10 is a more realistic timeline.
The deadline to administer shots to those vulnerable groups, which also includes First Nations elder care home residents, was originally set for Feb. 15, but officials said they had hoped to cross that benchmark 10 days sooner than planned.
As well, the province says that vaccine recipients, other than residents of a long-term care home, will now be required to receive their second dose of vaccine 35 to 42 days after the first shot due to supply availability.
Long-term care residents should still be receiving their booster shots 21 to 27 days after initial injection to complete the vaccination, as per the original plan.
Over the first two weeks of this month, the government has said it expects its shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be reduced by roughly 80 per cent.
Shipments of vaccines from competitor Moderna are also expected to be down by 20 per cent this week.
The province says that shipments should return to normal supply levels by mid-February. Once that happens, the province will expand its vaccination campaign to return to inoculating long-term care staff and essential caregivers.
Premier Doug Ford addressed the delays at a press conference Tuesday, calling the news “incredibly disappointing.”
“But we continue to press ahead and make steady progress,” he said.
Asked if his government made a mistake in not prioritizing the vaccination of long-term care residents, who have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ford defended the strategy while comparing Ontario’s rollout to Quebec’s.
“You look at our friends over in Quebec and they're doing a great job, but they have zero second vaccinations. Zero. We have 70,000 already done because of the smart move that General Hillier and the taskforce and ministers and everyone made the choice to be cautious,’ he said.
More than 72,000 Ontarians have been fully vaccinated since inoculations began in December, with 344,615 shots administered overall.
Last month, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that upgrades to its plant in Belgium would result in a slowing of vaccine production and deliveries.
Ford slammed the company at the time calling the stalemate “a massive concern.”
Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that a deal had been reached with vaccine development company Novavax to produce its COVID-19 vaccine on Canadian soil. However, the pharmaceutical company won’t be ready to roll out doses for several months.