Ontario, which has faced criticism over the logistics and pace of its COVID-19 vaccine program, is expected to offer more details about its plan to deliver doses later Tuesday.
Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease specialist and a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said that logistical and organizational challenges were at play at the outset of vaccination efforts in the province and across the country.
“I think it’s fair to give these programs — not just in Ontario, but across the country — a little bit of wiggle room and a little bit of runway to take off,” Bogoch told CBC’s Heather Hiscox on Tuesday. “However, it’s now been three weeks since the first delivery of the vaccine. We should be taking off, we should be in the air, and we should have mass vaccine programs functioning at full capacity by now.”
Ontario, which as of Sunday night had administered 42,419 doses, has been dealing with rising case numbers and hospitalizations.
“I think the next test is to see what’s done between now and a week from now,” Bogoch said.”We should not have any vaccines in freezers.”
“Today you’re going to hear, hopefully across the country, some very practical methods on how that’s going to be done.”
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott on Tuesday reported 3,128 new cases of COVID-19.
In Quebec, meanwhile, health officials have decided to delay the second shot for many of the people who got a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine so they can get the protection offered by a single dose to more front-line health-care workers.
Radio-Canada reported Tuesday that Premier François Legault has been asked to consider a curfew as the province deals with rising numbers and an increasingly strained health-care system. The premier hasn’t made a final decision, the report said.
In Yukon, health workers kicked off the territory’s immunization program on Monday with the Moderna vaccine at a long-term care facility in Whitehorse.
“I feel very privileged, and I did it because I want all people to know that there is an answer to what’s happening within our life right now,” said 84-year-old Agnes Mills. Mills and 103-year-old Mary Merchant were the first to roll up their sleeves at Whistle Bend Place.
Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, said the focus in the territory for the first few weeks will be long-term care residents and staff.
The convention centre in Whitehorse will come into use later as a mass clinic site, with the capacity to see up to 1,000 people a day, he said. That effort, which will focus on high-risk priority populations, will begin within a couple of weeks, Hanley said. There will also be two teams that will go out to the territory’s rural communities.
Nunavut is expected to provide details about its plan shortly, and the Northwest Territories is scheduled to begin immunizations next week.
Tuesday’s developments come a day after British Columbia‘s top doctor offered an update on the province’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province’s initial focus is on priority populations — including long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers, and people living in remote First Nations communities — with an aim of getting roughly 150,000 people immunized by February.
At a briefing on Monday, Dr. Bonnie Henry reiterated that for January, the province will be focused on residents and staff in long-term care homes.
“We have said that from the very beginning, those are the people that we know need our protection most.”
Henry said the province’s priority groups for vaccination from December to February include:
- Roughly 70,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities.
- Roughly 30,000 health-care workers, including hospital workers, paramedics and public health workers.
- Roughly 25,000 people living in remote or isolated First Nation communities.
- Roughly 13,000 residents and staff at assisted living residences.
- Roughly 8,000 essential visitors to long-term care or assisted living facilities.
- Roughly 2,000 people in hospital or in the community waiting for a long-term care placement.
Henry said the province is “hoping and planning” to get through the first groups by the end of January.
“The scheduling of these priority groups will vary a little bit as we deal with additional outbreaks in our communities, in long-term care in particular,” she said.
After finishing the first “high-risk and high-priority groups,” the province will move onto the next group, which includes seniors over the age of 80 in the community and Indigenous seniors and elders over 65.
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Homeless people using shelters, people in congregate living settings like provincial correctional centres and group homes, and health-care workers including family doctors and paramedics transporting long-term care residents will then be given priority for shots, Henry said, calling the immunization program a “monumental task” that will last for months.
The province doesn’t yet have a fixed number of guaranteed doses for February, Henry said, but health officials expect to learn more this week.
There are currently two COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in Canada, from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
While the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine needs ultra-low temperatures, limiting distribution, Henry said she’s hopeful Health Canada will approve additional vaccines, including the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines, increasing the amount of vaccine available.
As of early Tuesday morning, before Ontario’s update, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 611,424, with 77,466 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths stood at 16,074.
In the Prairie provinces, Manitoba reported 118 new cases of COVID-19, while neighbouring Saskatchewan reported 286 new cases. Alberta, which has seen several MLAs demoted or removed from their cabinet posts after facing questions over holiday travel, reported 1,128 new cases of COVID-19.
In the North, a Nunavut woman who contracted COVID-19 in November after delivering a child in Manitoba, died on Sunday. Silatik Qavvik, 35, leaves behind five children, including the baby she delivered in Winnipeg.
In Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick reported 17 new cases of COVID-19, while Nova Scotia reported six new cases. There was one new case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador and no new cases in Prince Edward Island.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 9:10 a.m. ET
What’s happening in the U.S.
More than two-thirds of the coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States have gone unused, U.S. health officials said on Monday, as the governors of New York and Florida vowed to penalize hospitals that do not dispense shots quickly.
Medical authorities have confronted widespread distrust of immunization safety, even among some health-care workers, owing in part to the record speed with which COVID-19 vaccines were developed and approved. But some U.S. officials also have cited organizational glitches in launching the most ambitious mass inoculation campaign in the nation’s history in the year-end holiday season.
“The logistics of getting it going into the people who want it is really the issue,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. infectious disease specialist, told MSNBC. “We’re not where we want to be. No doubt about that.”
The federal government has distributed more than 15 million vaccine doses to states and territories across the country, but only about 4.5 million have been administered, the CDC reported.
Those figures put the government far short of its goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020, although officials said they expected the rollout would pick up significantly this month.
The U.S. has seen more than 20.8 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 353,000 deaths, according to a tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
–From Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 10:15 a.m. ET
What’s happening around the world
| What the world could teach Canada about COVID-19 vaccine rollouts:
As of early Tuesday morning, more than 85.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, with more than 48.2 million cases considered recovered or resolved, according to a COVID-19 tracking tool maintained by Johns Hopkins University. The global death toll stood at more than 1.8 million.
In Europe, England is facing a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks, as authorities struggle to stem a surge in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals around the U.K.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a tough new stay-at-home order for England that won’t be reviewed until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus. It takes effect at midnight Tuesday. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon imposed a lockdown that began Tuesday.
Johnson and Sturgeon said the lockdowns were needed to protect the National Health Service as a new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 sweeps across Britain. On Monday, hospitals in England were treating 26,626 coronavirus patients, 40 per cent more than during the first pandemic peak in April.
Many U.K. hospitals have already been forced to cancel elective surgery, and the strain of the pandemic may soon delay cancer surgery and limit intensive care services for patients without COVID-19, Professor Neil Mortenson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told Times Radio.
“Over the weekend we talked about a slow-motion car crash, but I think it’s getting much worse than that now,” he said.
Beginning Tuesday, primary and secondary schools and colleges in England will be closed for in-person learning except for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February. People were told to work from home unless it’s impossible to do so, and to leave home only for essential trips.
All non-essential shops and personal care services like hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants can only offer takeout. Britain has reported over 75,500 virus-related deaths, one of the highest tallies in Europe.
Amid public outcry, France’s health minister has promised an “exponential” acceleration of his country’s slow coronavirus vaccination process.
After barely 500 people in France were vaccinated in the first six days, Health Minister Olivier Veran defended the government’s strategy of giving the vaccines first to residents of nursing homes. But he vowed Tuesday to simplify a bureaucratic consent process blamed in part for France’s lagging vaccinations.
In the Americas, Mexico approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for emergency use Monday, hoping to spur a vaccination effort that has only given about 44,000 shots since the third week of December, about 82 per cent of the doses the country has received. Prior to this, the Pfizer vaccine was the only one approved for use in Mexico.
Assistant Health Secretariat Hugo Lopez-Gatell said he erroneously reported approval for Chinese vaccine-maker CanSino, noting it had not yet submitted full study results for safety and efficacy.
In the Middle East, Iran has registered its first case of a highly contagious coronavirus variant that emerged in Britain, in an Iranian who arrived from the U.K.
American biotech company Moderna said Israel has approved its COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna said in a statement Tuesday that the Israeli Health Ministry authorized use of the company’s vaccine and that it would begin delivering this month the six million doses secured by Israel.
Israel’s Health Ministry reported 8,308 new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday — one of the highest daily tallies since the beginning of the pandemic — as the country struggles to contain the pandemic during a third national lockdown
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will decide later this week whether to impose a state of emergency in the Tokyo area, a move citizens derided as too little, too late in a nation set to host the Olympics.
As a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) prepares to visit China to investigate the origins of COVID-19, Beijing has stepped up efforts not only to prevent new outbreaks, but also shape the narrative about when and where the pandemic began.
The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus in South Korea passed 1,000 on Tuesday, while an increasing number of gym owners said they would reopen in protest against strict physical distancing rules.
In Africa, Eswatini aims to vaccinate all its 1.3 million people against COVID-19, senior officials in the southern African kingdom said.
-From The Associated Press and Reuters, last updated at 7 a.m. ET