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LEVY: If it’s Friday, there must be new vaccine numbers

Posted: February 18, 2021

(February 13, 2021)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Toronto Sun

Ontario Premier Doug Ford watches as a health-care technician prepares syringes of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for front-line health-care workers at a UHN (University Health Network) clinic at the MaRS building on January 7, 2021. PHOTO BY JACK BOLAND /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

Three days ago on the day that was supposed to be the deadline for inoculating all long-term care residents with at least the first dose of the COVID vaccine, we were informed by our gleeful Long-Term Care Minister and Premier Doug Ford that the province had met its target.

Not fully vaccinated mind you, but that the first dose had been put in the arms of LTC residents.

At that time, we were given no insight into whether all retirement home residents had been given their first dose too.

Later that day, LTC Minister Merrilee Fullerton, issued a statement saying it wasn’t so — that there were still homes waiting for their first doses.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, said Friday she knew of LTC homes in Kingston, Hastings Prince Edward, Haliburton, Hamilton and Sarnia where the vaccine was still pending.

Despite scrambling with 15,000 vaccinations given Thursday, by Friday reports from the health ministry indicated 63,000 of 72,000 (or 88%) LTC residents had been vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Here’s another important aspect of this less than transparent vaccine rollout process: Only 33,000 of 60,000 (or 55%) of retirement home residents have received their first dose so far.

As for essential caregivers, a figure I asked for more than once, by Friday 6,300 LTC essential caregivers had been vaccinated at least once and the same for 2,900 essential caregivers working in retirement homes.

So much for a deadline of Feb. 10.

Considering 442,000 doses of the vaccine have gotten into arms as of Friday, according to the province’s own stats, and accounting for the fact that some of those would include second doses (according to the government stats, 150,000 Ontario residents are fully vaccinated), you’ve got to wonder who got the other doses — more than 250,000 at the very least.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can certainly be blamed for messing up the supply issue. Of that there is no doubt.

That said, with numbers like these, it’s hard to believe LTC and retirement homes were the province’s priority.

What exactly is the COVID vaccine distribution task force doing — or do they know what they’re doing — when the Minister and the Premier are forced to backtrack about the number of LTC residents vaccinated.

Mehra said the number of doses given in Ontario to date were “more than enough” to vaccinate all LTC and retirement home residents with the first and second doses.

It is bordering on unconscionable that after 3,706 deaths — and more in the second wave — that the province and its task force are still playing Russian Roulette with the lives of vulnerable seniors.

As I noted on Wednesday, 963 LTC residents died waiting for the vaccine, while the task force and the government fumbled the ball between Dec. 31 and Feb. 7. This figure is from Ontario’s own statistics.

“This (vaccinating LTC and retirement home residents) was supposed to be and should have been the priority,” Mehra said. “Like so much else (with long-term care), there are all kinds of promises (made) and they never happen.

“It is either incompetence or they are (outright) lying when they say they’re going to do these things,” she added.

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