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First doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine rolling out today as Ontario reports 1,940 new cases

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Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrive at Hamilton International Airport last night. (Government of Ontario)

 

First shots will be administered at University Health Network in Toronto

Ontario’s first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will be administered in Toronto today, the head of the province’s vaccine distribution task force says, as public health officials reported 1,940 more cases of the illness. “This is ‘V-Day’,” retired general Rick Hillier said in an interview with CBC News Network this morning.

“The number of vaccinations that take place today will probably be pretty small but I think there’s a little trickle down the spine of every single person in the province and in the public service and in the health sector who have been working for months, who have been fighting COVID-19,” he continued.

The initial shots will be given at a hospital site in Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), though public health officials, citing security concerns, have not revealed the exact location.

Several thousand doses arrived in Ontario late Sunday night, marking a major milestone in the massive immunization campaign. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was at the Hamilton International Airport to greet the plane after it landed.

“The province has been preparing for this day for months and we are ready for the road ahead,” Ford said in a statement early this morning. Last week, Hillier said that 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are going to the UHN, while another 3,000 will go to The Ottawa Hospital, though it possible those doses will come from a vaccine shipment sent to Mirabel Airport in Montreal.

An additional 85,000 or so doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to be provided to 14 hospital sites in Ontario regions currently in the red and lockdown levels of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions system by the end of the year.

Ford has said health-care workers, long-term care residents, and their caregivers will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health-care will also be priority groups.

The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses — allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people — during the first three months of 2021, with vaccines becoming more broadly available to the general public in April. It will take another six to nine months to immunize all Ontarians who opt to get the vaccine.

“People are going to have to be patient that their turn will come,” he said last week.

Meanwhile, this morning Ontario reported another 1,940 cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths from the illness. The new cases include 544 in Toronto, 390 in Peel Region, 191 in York Region, 134 in Hamilton and 114 in Windsor-Essex.

Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:

  • Waterloo Region: 71
  • Durham Region: 68
  • Halton Region: 64
  • Niagara Region: 58
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 47
  • Ottawa: 45
  • Middlesex-London: 43
  • Simcoe Muskoka: 33
  • Eastern Ontario: 27
  • Southwestern: 26
  • Brant County: 13
  • Huron Perth: 12
  • Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 11
  • Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 11

(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)

The Ministry of Education also reported 137 new cases that are school-related: 114 students and 23 staff members. Some 889 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 18.4 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 18 schools are currently closed because of the illness.

The new cases bring the seven-day average to 1,841. There are currently 16,586 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide. Ontario’s network of labs processed 57,091 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.6 per cent, the highest it has been in about a week.

Moreover, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness increased 44 up to 857. Of those, 244 are being treated in intensive care and 149 require the use of a ventilator. The 23 additional deaths bring the official toll to 3,972.

York, Windsor-Essex move into lockdown

As of today, York and Windsor-Essex have joined Toronto and Peel in the lockdown level.  It means indoor public events, dining in restaurants and bars, and close personal care services are off-limits, indoor sports facilities must close, and non-essential retail is limited to curbside pickup. Five other regional health units are also tightening restrictions today.

First doses of Pfizer COVID-19-canada-mileniostadium

Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph move to the red “control” zone, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit moves to orange “restrict,” while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark shifts to yellow “protect.”

JN/MS

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