The first COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada are expected to be administered on Monday to long-term care home workers in Ontario and Quebec.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau turned to Twitter on Sunday evening to announce the arrival of 30,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNtech’s vaccine.
“This is V-Day,” retired general Rick Hillier, head of Ontario's COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, told CBC.
In both provinces, seniors’ facilities have been particularly hard hit with COVID-19 outbreaks, accounting for thousands of COVID-19 deaths in Canada.
Caregivers get priority over residents because they can travel to the undisclosed hospital site with Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), where the Pfizer vaccine is being stored.
Quebec’s first 4,000 doses will be administered to residents in long-term care homes Monday afternoon. Workers will get vaccinated next.
The Pfizer vaccine is being rolled out to all 10 provinces on a per capita basis. Territories will have to wait for a different vaccine, likely Moderna’s contender, because they don’t have the capacity to store Pfizer’s at the required -80 C to -60 C.
There are currently 14 approved inoculation sites across the country that have the capacity to store Pfizer’s vaccine.
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is in charge of logistics for Health Canada’s national operations, told CBC News vaccine delivery is “unfolding exactly as planned.” Fortin said the first round of Pfizer vaccines will trickle into Canada over the next two days or so.
As subsequent shipments of the vaccine arrive, the most vulnerable Canadians—healthcare workers, the elderly, immunocompromised, and Indigenous communities—will receive doses first.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister wasn’t pleased with the plan.
“Manitobans who do not live in northern Indigenous communities would be the least likely to get a vaccine in the country,” Pallister said earlier this month. “There would be the least amount available in Manitoba after the federal government holds back the portion for Indigenous people.”
Northern Indigenous communities in Manitoba are reporting alarming rates of COVID-19 cases. Red Sucker Lake First Nation, a fly-in community of about 1,000 people, is in full lockdown after 18 households reported positive COVID-19 cases. The Canadian military is currently fighting a “war” against COVID-19 in Shamattawa First Nation, which has reported a 50 percent positivity rate for the virus.
“This is an unfolding nightmare,” NDP Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Ashton said Thursday.
VICE World News previously reported how remote, isolated Indigenous communities, many without access to potable and running water, are more susceptible to severe COVID-19 outbreaks.
Trudeau has said the general population can expect vaccine access in April.
“This is good news. But our fight against COVID-19 is not over,” Trudeau said, while urging Canadians to continue following public health guidelines, including frequent hand-washing, wearing masks, and avoiding social gatherings.
Canada is well within a second pandemic wave, with provinces frequently reporting record-breaking levels of new daily cases, and lockdown measures in place across the country. As of Monday morning, the country had 460,743 confirmed cases—74,059 active—and 13,431 deaths.
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