Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he’s deeply troubled by the recently-announced Pfizer vaccine shortage and is changing the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan to ensure the most vulnerable are given their necessary second dose.
The premier made the announcement on Tuesday during a news conference shortly after Pfizer revealed its decision to slow down production, resulting in reduced vaccine deliveries to Canada over the next month. The delay is due to production issues at a plant in Belgium.
“It’s troubling. It’s a massive concern ... because this vaccine is the difference between life and death for the most vulnerable,” Ford said. “We're emptying the freezers on what we've received so far, getting needles into people's arms and we're focusing on our most vulnerable.”
Health officials said Ontario’s weekly deliveries of the Pfizer-BioTech COVID-19 vaccine will be cut by as much as 80 per cent over the next month.
Ford said the federal government reported on Tuesday that the entire country will not get any new vaccines from Pfizer next week and will get very limited amounts in the coming weeks. The federal government says shipments are not expected to get back to normal levels until late February and early March.
"It makes me very very angry, and I want to make something clear, I'm not angry at the prime minister or deputy prime minister. We've been working collaboratively, I'm just angry at the situation that other countries are getting it," Ford said.
“We have to be on those guys [at Pfizer] like a blanket. I would be outside that guy’s house. Every time he moves, I would be saying, ‘where’s our vaccines.'"
“Other people are getting them; the European Union is getting them. Why not Canada? That’s my question to Pfizer.”
Ford also appealed to U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday for help securing more COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario. Ford appealed to Biden to share a million doses of the Pfizer shot, which is manufactured in Michigan.
The Pfizer vaccine is administered in two doses. After the first dose is given, the patient gets their booster shot 21 to 27 days later in order to complete the vaccination.
The province says it has administered over 224,000 doses across Ontario so far. Only 25,000 of those people have had their second shot and are fully vaccinated.
Health officials say the province will now “protect” the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine through “careful week-by-week” allocation and by extending the length of time people are going to have to wait to get the second dose.
People living in long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes will receive their second dose of the vaccine as scheduled, the province said. Health officials said this is because the elderly population has a weaker immune response, and risks should not be taken.
Those who got their first dose already and are not connected to high-risk settings may receive their second dose of the vaccine anywhere between 21 and 42 days after the first shot.
While all long-term care homes in Ontario's COVID-19 hot spots have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, all of the first new doses that do come in will be administered in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes in other regions, as well as northern fly-in First Nation communities.
The government has said it hopes to administer at least one dose of the vaccine to all residents and staff in all long-term care homes across the province by Feb. 15. Health officials said on Tuesday that the vaccine shortage would not affect this target.
-- With files from the Canadian Press