Despite having the country’s slowest COVID-19 vaccine roll-out and holding 80,000 vaccine doses, Ontario’s distribution has been at a near shut-down for the past four days.
On December 13, Ontario Premier Doug Ford was pictured at Hamilton’s airport as a plane carrying the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine to Ontario was unloaded.
“The province has been preparing for this day for months and we are ready for the road ahead,” Ford’s office said in a statement released the next morning.
Yet since December 13 the Ontario government has received 90,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines and only 11,227 doses have been administered, putting Ontario last among the ten provinces for vaccine roll out.
Fewer than 74 of every 100,000 Ontario residents have received a vaccine dose, according to tracking of privincial data by biostatician Ryan Imgrund. Ontario has vaccinated far fewer than the second slowest province, Alberta, where 108 of 100,000 people have received a dose.
Nationally, 135 of every 100,000 Canadians has received a vaccine dose, according to Imgrund's analysis. The highest rates of vaccine distribution are in Canada’s four Atlantic provinces. They have also been the provinces most successful in preventing the spread of the virus.
And despite being far behind other provinces, Ontario’s vaccine program has been put on pause since December 24. No vaccinations were reported for December 25 and 26. According to government spokesperson David Jensen, five hospitals were operating vaccination clinics on December 27 and 10 locations were administering the vaccine on December 28.
Ontario has more than 400 hospitals and 600 long-term care residences, both of which are the focus of vaccine roll-out.
Jensen said the pause in vaccinations was “to ensure that there was no impact on staffing levels” in hospitals and long-term care facilities due to holidays.
But on twitter, the government’s reasoning for the new delay quickly came under attack from medical professionals.
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, warned that hospitals “cannot be the only vaccine distribution mechanism” and called on the Ontario government to “diversify distribution.”
Dale also raised concern that “organized spinning is underway” about the vaccine shut down, pointing to a series of tweets by former Ford spokesperson Laryssa Waler stating that the closures were because the Ford government “had to listen to” hospitals about staffing.
The pause comes despite a report by the Financial Accountability Office that the Ontario government sitting on over $12 billion in federal COVID-19 aid and the Conservative Premier’s repeated commitment to “spare no expense” in protecting people’s health and safety.