Ontario Liberals call for military assistance in COVID-19 vaccine rollout
A staff member escorts members of the Canadian Armed Forces in to a long term care home, in Pickering, Ont. on Saturday, April 25, 2020. The Canadian Armed Forces says minor problems remain in some Ontario long-term care homes they were deployed to earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- As Ontario ramps up it’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, the province’s Liberal party is calling for military support to help speed up the rate of inoculations.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca wants doctors and nurses with the Canadian Armed Forces to be deployed on the front lines of Ontario’s vaccination delivery system to help the province achieve its goal of 10,000 shots per day.
“I am urging the premier to request immediate assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who are well-positioned to provide important logistical leadership and support,” Del Duca said in a statement.
Premier Doug Ford tapped retired CAF General Rick Hillier to lead his vaccination distribution task force, which has suffered a few setbacks at the outset of the plan.
Hillier suggested on Tuesday that holding back 35,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine contributed to the slow roll out, and acknowledged that pausing vaccinations during Christmas was a mistake.
Hillier, however, promised to speed up the vaccine roll out by administering 55,000 doses to residents and staff in 161 long-term care homes in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex, by Jan. 21.
The retired general also said the remaining supply of the Pfizer vaccine would be exhausted by the end of the week and promised to administer the incoming doses soon after they arrive in Ontario.
Calling this an “all-hands-on-deck” moment for the province, Del Duca said military aid in transporting and administering the vaccine would help the province “regain control [and] distribute vaccinations rapidly.”
Del Duca said the government should also request military assistance in long-term care homes struggling under the weight of COVID-19.
The pandemic’s second wave has seen the virus spreading to more nursing homes than the initial wave of the COVID-19, despite the premier's assurances of an “iron ring” around the sector.
While the province has relied on the Red Cross, hospitals and private management entities to assist homes struggling with outbreaks, Del Duca believes the military could bring the same stabilizing effect it did during the first wave.
So far, more than 2,800 elderly residents in nursing homes have succumbed to the virus, while 11,500 residents and 4,400 staff are currently ill.