Ontario on track to give 1st doses of COVID-19 vaccines to majority of adults this month: officials
Ontario is now well on its way to giving 65 percent of adults first doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of May, provincial health officials said Wednesday.
By Tuesday evening, around 43 percent of Ontarians aged 18 and over had received at least one injection.
“The light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter with every vaccine administered,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott at a press conference on Wednesday.
Elliott again urged the public to continue following public health measures until the majority of Ontarians are vaccinated.
Health officials say Pfizer BioNTech vaccine shipments will pick up again in late May and will remain steady at more than 938,000 doses per week in June.
While pharmacies in the province originally only offered doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, some locations now offer both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Select pharmacies in Peel and Toronto have been offering the Pfizer vaccine since late April, while the Moderna vaccine will be available this week in up to 60 pharmacies across five public health facilities.
Officials estimate an additional 1,000 pharmacies across the province will be ready to begin delivering vaccines by the end of the week, bringing the total to about 2,500 in Ontario.
CLOCK | Ontario Minister of Health Provides an Update on the COVID-19 Vaccine Schedule:
The province also says it is launching mobile vaccination units to provide vaccines to workers in small and medium-sized workplaces who cannot work from home in Peel, Toronto and York.
They will go into operation on May 7th. Attorney General Sylvia Jones These units are deployed in locations such as the Ontario Food Terminal as well as Amazon and Loblaws locations.
Ford defends long-term care minister after report
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Doug Ford is defending his Minister of Long-Term Care and calling for her to resign after a report found Ontario’s nursing homes were neglected and unprepared for a pandemic.
Ford says he will take final responsibility for the long-term care tragedies and promises to fix the system.
He says he still has faith in Long-Term Care Secretary Merrilee Fullerton, who said the government is taking action to address issues in the sector.
His comments come almost a week after the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission issued its report calling for a revision of the sector.
Opposition politicians on Thursday expressed doubts as to whether Ford or Fullerton had committed to necessary measures to improve the system.
They noted that the government did not commit to changes such as permanent wage increases for personal assistants or other recommendations in the report.
NDP opposition leader Andrea Horwath said it was disappointing to hear Ford defend the minister.
Cases under 3K for the second day
Meanwhile, Ontario reported an additional 2,941 cases of COVID-19 this morning, below the 3,000 threshold for a second consecutive day, and 44 more deaths from the disease.
The province has not had two consecutive days with fewer than 3,000 cases in more than a month.
The additional deaths are most in a single day during the third wave of the pandemic that began in early March. The official number rose to 8,187 while the seven-day average of deaths rose to 28.4.
The seven-day average of daily deaths hit its all-time high of more than 60 at the height of the second wave in mid-January.
New cases today include 924 in Toronto, 565 in the Peel region, 254 in the York region, 171 in the Durham region and 149 in Hamilton.
The seven-day average of daily cases fell to 3,432, marking an entire week of constant decreases.
Labs have completed 45,767 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and Public Health Ontario recorded a positivity rate of 6.6 percent, the lowest since March 31.
In terms of hospital stays, 882 patients with COVID-related critical illnesses were treated in the intensive care unit on Tuesday. Of these, 620, or around 70 percent, required a ventilator to breathe.
An additional 52 people were admitted to intensive care units yesterday, according to Critical Care Services Ontario, a government agency that produces internal reports for hospitals and health groups. The average age of intensive care patients is currently 62 and they spend an average of 11.8 days there.
During the third wave, a total of 2,744 patients were admitted to intensive care units in Ontario.
Health Canada approves Pfizer for children ages 12 to 15
This morning, Health Canada announced that it had approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for use in adolescents aged 12 to 15 years.
Pfizer is the first product approved for use in this younger age category. The other three products approved in Canada – AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna – may only be used by people over the age of 18 for the time being.
Health Canada said of the Pfizer vaccine that “it is estimated to be 100% effective in this age group and comparable to that in adults,” while safety data shows it is “well tolerated.”
It’s unclear when children between the ages of 12 and 15 in Ontario could get the vaccine. At the press conference on Wednesday, Elliott called the move “wonderful news” and added that discussions were ongoing.
“We are currently actively working on it,” she said.
The same health officials also said they are monitoring ongoing research in England to see if people can mix and match the type of vaccine they are given for their first and second doses. Ontario supplies of AstraZeneca vaccines, most of which were administered in pharmacies, are now largely depleted.
The province is currently waiting to see when it can get more.
COVID-19 extremely rare among vaccinated people, data shows
The latest data from Public Health Ontario (PHO) shows that COVID-19 cases were exceptionally rare in people who were vaccinated.
Of the nearly 3.5 million people who were vaccinated in Ontario between December last year and April 17 this year, only 0.06 percent (or 2,223 people) became infected after being partially or fully vaccinated.
Most of these cases, according to PHO, were found in people who were not yet fully protected by their vaccine, as their symptoms started within two weeks of being vaccinated. Health experts say it can take a person’s immune system to build immunity to the virus for weeks.
Public health facilities in Ontario jointly administered 132,603 doses of COVID-19 vaccine yesterday, the second highest in a single day in the province, according to the Department of Health.
By 8 p.m. yesterday, 5,599,723 people, or approximately 43 percent of all adults in Ontario, had had at least one injection.
Ontario has administered approximately 84.5 percent of the 6,625,735 doses it has received to date. Notably, 980,750 of these total doses arrived early yesterday or early this morning today.