Toronto clinic workers facing 'threatening behavior' from public over which mRNA coronavirus vaccine they will receive

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Toronto officials are raising concerns about the amount of abuse being faced by workers at its vaccine clinics as the city officially makes the switch to interchangeably administer both Pfizer and Moderna going forward.

Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, who is the chair of Toronto’s vaccine task force, told reporters on Wednesday that there has been an alarming increase in threatening behaviour towards staff at its nine clinics over the last week with most of it involving individuals who are showing up for appointments and demanding that they receive a specific vaccine.

Pegg said that the behaviour must stop, especially as Toronto switches to a new model in which it will “interchangeably” administer both Pfizer and Moderna at its clinics based solely on supply.

“This behavior has included aggressive and threatening behavior, verbal attacks and displays of anger towards our clinic staff,” Pegg said. “To be very clear this type of behavior will not be tolerated in any of our clinics for any reason. Our clinic management teams, along with their clinic security staff will intervene, and will immediately remove anyone who displays any type of inappropriate or aggressive behavior towards the clinic staff, or other clients.”

The City of Toronto exclusively administered the Pfizer vaccine at its clinics for months but an increase in the supply of Moderna has allowed it to add hundreds of thousands of appointments over the next three-weeks.

Going forward, Pegg said that individuals showing up to city-clinics will receive whichever mRNA vaccine is available and will not be afforded an opportunity to select their vaccine in advance.

It should be noted that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said that there is “no important difference” between Pfizer and Moderna and that both can be safely and effectively administered interchangeably.

“There has been a small percentage of people who are choosing to decline if they can't get their preferred brand if you will, and they will leave. That's their right and I respect that but you know I'm also disappointed by it because it's very much a missed opportunity for that individual to receive their full vaccination,” Pegg said on Wednesday. “The more people that get their vaccine, the faster we're going to have COVID-19 behind us.”

Canada is receiving 11 million doses of the Moderna vaccine in July and about nine million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

The increase in supply has allowed Toronto to significantly up the capacity at its city-run clinics and Pegg said that 70,000 appointments remain available for the week of July 5 with approximately 90,000 available the following week.