After two days of claiming the shutdown of Ontario’s vaccine program for the Christmas long weekend was a choice of hospitals, the chair of Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Task Force has now said it was the province that “got it wrong.”
Ontario had received over 90,000 vaccine doses, but only administered about 11,000 before the shutdown.
Retired General Rick Hillier, appointed by Premier Ford to lead vaccine distribution, said the decision to stop vaccine distribution was made “with honourable intentions” of allowing more health care workers “who have been labouring so hard” to have time off work during Christmas.
Hillier, during his appearance on CTV News Channel, also said slowness in vaccine distribution was because “we can’t put vaccines into people’s arms if we don’t have them.”
His statement about who ordered the shutdown appears to run counter to social media statements by Premier Ford’s spokesperson, Travis Kann, made Sunday. Ontario’s hospitals had asked for the shutdown said Kann, adding that he was “happy to listen to frontline partners.”
That response was met with concern from professionals in the medical community.
Doris Grinspun, CEO of Registered Nurses Association of Ontario, tweeted that her organization has told the government that “there are plenty of RNs, RPNs and NPs willing and wanting” to help run a vaccine program.
And the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, Anthony Dale, raised his concern that “organized spinning is underway” about the vaccine shut down and warned that hospitals “cannot be the only vaccine distribution mechanism.”
Lisa Salamon-Switzman, a regional chairperson for the Ontario Medical Association, said she had scheduled staff for a vaccine clinic on December 25 and 26 when she got word the Ontario Ministry of Health had directed them to cancel for the holiday break.
Opposition NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the delay “disheartening and frustrating” and called on the Ford government to publicly release the full vaccination schedule and detailed plan.
Ontario has quickly fallen behind in vaccine distribution, trailing all other provinces in the number of doses administer as a per cent of population.