Ontario did not meet deadline for first doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in long-term care homes, officials admit
Licensed practical nurse Tami Arnold prepares to administer a COVID-19 vaccine to Donna Wilson, 82, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Ohio. Kareem Elgazzar /The Cincinnati Enquirer via AP)
TORONTO -- Hours after the Ontario government announced that every long-term care home resident in the province had been offered their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, they now say that is not the case due to an “internal miscommunication.”
Health Minister Christine Elliott confirmed the error at a news conference on Thursday as the province announced the postponement of March Break.
"We are working to make sure that every single long-term care resident and high-risk retirement home resident receives their doses in the earliest possible time," she said.
It was reported earlier in the day that 100 per cent of long-term care facilities had received their first vaccines. However, a small number of homes had not actually finished administering the shots.
No official correction was issued to the media following the original news release.
Premier Doug Ford had also published a tweet congratulating his COVID-19 vaccine task force on the achievement which has now been deleted.
The goal to get the first round of needles into arms was set for Feb. 5, a deadline that the government pushed back by five days earlier this month due to an ongoing supply shortage.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Long-term Care said the government “regrets” the error.
Elliott said that despite the mistake, over 34,000 residents in long-term care have received both their first and second doses of the vaccine.
The government said it expects the outstanding 0.8 per cent of homes will be finished inoculating residents in the coming days amid a national shortage in vaccine supply.
To date, the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which are produced in Europe, are the only ones approved for use in Canada and both companies have come up short in their recent shipments to the country.
Moderna promised to deliver 230,000 doses of the vaccine to Canada in its first shipment this month but instead, only 180,000 were sent.
Federal officials confirmed Thursday that Moderna will only be sending two-thirds of the expected doses to Canada during the next scheduled shipment on the week of Feb. 22.
Pfizer has also dramatically scaled back the number of vaccine vials in their shipments to Canada over the past month.
No new Pfizer doses were sent to Canada on the week of Jan. 25 and on the weeks of Feb. 1 and Feb. 8, Pfizer sent approximately 20 per cent of the doses it had promised to ship to the country.
Earlier this week, Health Canada regulators agreed to change labels on the Pfizer vials to reflect the fact that six doses, not five, are inside each container.
This means that the 336,000 doses initially allotted to Canada in next week’s shipment will now be counted as 400,000.
Retrieving the sixth dose from the vials has proven to be somewhat of a task, requiring a special syringe to extract it, and Canada has ordered millions more of the syringes in response.
The federal government has a contract to receive 40 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine this year and four million of those doses are expected to be shipped by the end of March.
Health Canada is still reviewing data on other vaccine candidates that are awaiting approval, including the AstraZeneca vaccine.
As part of the first phase of its vaccination program, the provincial government promised to inoculate long-term care residents, workers, their essential caregivers, as well as frontline hospital workers, but vaccine shortages in recent weeks forced the Ford government to focus on providing first doses exclusively to long-term care home residents as well as high-risk retirement and First Nation elder care home residents.
Second doses are still being administered to all of those who have already received a first dose.
Officials previously said once sufficient supply of the vaccine is secured, the province will continue providing first doses to staff and essential caregivers in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes.
-With files from The Canadian Press