Vaccine 'strike teams' ready to get to work in Ottawa long-term care homes
Teams ready to inoculate residents but Ottawa may not get December shipment, says city
Ottawa's task force responsible for rolling out COVID-19 vaccinations has "strike teams" ready to move into long-term care homes to inoculate residents, but members of those teams have to cool their heels until the second vaccine candidate — Moderna — is approved in Canada.
And even once approved, Ottawa is not guaranteed access to the first batch arriving in Ontario.
"Perhaps by the end of the year we may start seeing some Moderna product start arriving [in Canada], but we don't know if it's going to come to Ottawa or not," said Anthony Di Monte, the city's general manager of emergency and protective services and also the lead of the vaccine distribution task force.
Di Monte said he and other representatives of regions around the province are part of a regular call with retired general Rick Hillier, the provincial lead on vaccine rollout.
"A lot of those questions still haven't been determined," Di Monte said.
Ottawa may be excluded from 1st Moderna batch
The federal government expects to receive the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine before the end of the year, with Health Canada's review in its final stages.
Ontario anticipates receiving an initial shipment of between 35,000 and 85,000 doses.
Di Monte said Ottawa may be excluded when the first Moderna vaccines arrive, as the province focuses on regions with more severe lockdown measures and facing a surge in hospitalization cases.
Some 1,500 long-term care workers in Ottawa were scheduled to get the first dose of the already approved vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. Another 1,500 doses are being stored until those workers can take the second shot three weeks later.
It's not clear when another vaccine shipment will arrive in Ottawa.
On Tuesday, Hillier said although having the workers vaccinated will reduce the risk to residents, the Moderna option gets the vaccine directly into the arms of the most vulnerable.
"The Moderna is going to be our first go-to vaccine to allow us to go into the long-term care homes," said Hillier. "We may receive some more flexibility on the Pfizer vaccine in the weeks to come, but we don't know that for sure."
Hillier said the long-term care homes first on the list would likely be in "hot zones."
Strike teams are mobile
Di Monte acknowledged that could exclude Ottawa, but he said the city's task force will be ready.
The city has developed strike teams involving groups of nurses, doctors and paramedics working as mobile units that can arrive on location and begin delivering vaccines directly to residents of long-term care and other settings.
Di Monte said he hopes Ottawa does receive some portion of the initial Moderna shipments in order to develop familiarity and expertise handling the product as members of the city program have achieved with the Pfizer vaccine.
This week, the team running the Pfizer vaccination program at The Ottawa Hospital have been tasked to put together a playbook of best practices so other regions can take advantage of what Ottawa has learned when they begin receiving the doses in their own communities.