TORONTO -- As COVID-19 case numbers in Ontario continue to surge to unprecedented levels, the government says that nearly 19,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed since the province began inoculations earlier this month.

Clinics across Ontario have administered 18,858 shots of the vaccine as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health.

The news comes after critics slammed the provincial government for pausing vaccinations on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26 to give front-line workers a break over the holidays.

Retired General Rick Hillier, who chairs the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, took responsibility for the stoppage during an interview with CTV News Channel on Monday.

“We shouldn’t (have) made that decision. I take responsibility for that. And clearly, we got it wrong. We’ve been slammed, we’ve been spanked, we’ll pick up our game,” he said at the time.

All of the province’s 19 vaccination sites are now back up and running as the task force looks to get through it’s 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine amid a change in distribution strategy. In a statement released earlier this week, the Ministry of Health confirmed that vaccines are not being held back as originally planned, in an effort to get more people vaccinated.

“We are not holding or reserving doses, and are vaccinating as many people as possible, counting on confirmed shipments of the vaccine that will arrive over the coming weeks for second doses,” the statement read.

Initially, the ministry said that it would intentionally hold back a number of shots to guarantee that those who were vaccinated would receive their necessary second dose.

Meanwhile, roughly 50,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are expected to be transferred to Ontario’s care today after the federal government received the supply in Toronto last week.

Hillier said the drug will be distributed directly to long-term care and retirement homes, which have been especially hit hard by the spread of the disease.

Immunizations are slated to start at those facilities within days of the delivery, according to Hillier. He said that more than half of Ontarians – about 8.5 million – should receive the vaccine by the end of July.

Ontario reported a record number of COVID-19 case numbers Wednesday. The 2,923 new infections mark a sharp increase over Tuesday's report when a previous record of 2,553 cases was added. 

On Wednesday, the province released the ethical framework that will guide its decision making in distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

The Ontario government says it will look to the expertise of local public health units when it comes to deciding who should receive the COVID-19 vaccine first among priority groups like health-care workers and long-term care residents.

With files from CP24's Chris Fox.