'We did not want to waste them': Top Ontario vaccine official says after non-front-line staff get shot
TORONTO -- The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination task force says that COVID-19 vaccines were given to non-front-line staff, including people who work from home, because hospitals didn’t want to waste doses.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier said there were some challenges in getting essential health-care workers to vaccination sites in late December and early January.
“Because once we had opened those Pfizer vaccines and we could not move them at that stage, we did not want to waste them obviously,” he said. “We started vaccinating the health-care workers, in some cases, those who were probably further down the queue, as you articulated, got vaccinated before others.”
“Each site has been working to make sure that that happens in kind of small numbers as possible, but it will continue to occur when you’re vaccinating 165,000 people to millions of people.”
The comments come after three hospitals in the Greater Toronto Area offered vaccines this month to back-office administrative staff, volunteers, clinical researchers and information technology staff.
In an internal email obtained by CTV News, the University Health Network invited researchers to get the vaccine while the William Osler health system said that any team member could get the shot, including “any back-office/administrative staff or volunteer.”
Provincial officials speaking on background said they provide a “risk matrix” to help determine who should be prioritized for the vaccine. The matrix weighs risk of exposure by patient population and health-care setting. It also takes into account the position a worker holds and whether there is enough resources should that person fall ill.
Each vaccine site is given this matrix, as well as an ethical framework, but may have made alternative decisions in order to use up doses of the vaccine.
“It’s not ideal, an operation of this size is not going to be and we are not going to apologize for that because we want to vaccinate folks in an incredible hurry,” Hillier said. “Speed trumps perfection.”
“We want to get those done as fast as we can.”
Earlier in the day, the Ontario government released a timeline for Phase 2 of the province’s vaccination plan, as well as a list of those who would be eligible for the shot. Among the five groups listed were seniors over the age of 80 and essential workers outside of the health-care system.