Toronto 'pauses' new COVID-19 immunization clinic after province orders it closed
Ontario government directed city to close clinic due to shortage of vaccines, city says
The City of Toronto has closed its new COVID-19 immunization clinic downtown after it was told to do so by the Ontario government due to a shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
In a news release on Tuesday, the city said it was ordered to "pause" the clinic, located at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, when appointments on Tuesday came to an end at 8 p.m. The clinic has now shut its doors.
The province had originally directed the city to close the clinic on Friday. It opened on Monday and was in operation only two days.
The city said the closure follows a federal announcement on Tuesday that Canada has COVID-19 vaccine supply shortages.
"Everyone is disappointed at the vaccine supply chain issues. The City looks forward to re-establishing vaccine clinics once supply becomes available," Alex Burke, city spokesperson, said in an email on Tuesday.
Burke said the clinic administered the Moderna vaccine and the province is reallocating the Moderna supply.
Earlier this week, the city said the clinic had been established with the aim of vaccinating up to 250 people a day. It was not open to the public, but was set up to provide vaccinations for select health-care workers "directly involved in the front-line response to COVID-19."
Those workers included shelter, harm-reduction and Streets to Homes staff who work with some of Toronto's most vulnerable residents.
All appointments made for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week have now been cancelled.
In an email later on Tuesday, the city said eight health-care workers, who were not supposed to get vaccinated as part of an initial group of workers, did get doses because they registered.
"It was confirmed today that eight health-care workers outside that group received vaccine. We took immediate measures to course correct and everyone vaccinated today met the criteria," the city said.
The city noted that the federal government is responsible for securing the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, while the provincial government is responsible for distributing them and identifying which groups get them first under its framework.
As for the city, it is responsible for supporting the administration of the vaccine in keeping with provincial priority lists and scheduling.
"The City's Immunization Task Force is continuing to plan for city-wide immunization clinic roll-out and will continue to work with the province to determine next steps once vaccine supply is re-established," the city said.
When the city opened the clinic on Monday, it lit the Toronto sign in pink, the colour of the bandaids that are emblematic of the city's immunization campaign.
Toronto residents told to be patient
Dr. Eileen de Villa, the city's medical officer of health, told reporters on Monday that vaccination plans often don't roll out smoothly, but she urged Toronto residents to be patient and optimistic.
"While we want the flow of vaccine to be swift, uninterrupted and high volume, the fact of the matter is this is the first time a vaccination campaign on this scale has ever been designed and implemented — and the whole world needs their share of vaccines," she said.
"Public health has years of experience in the delivery of mass vaccination programs. And from experience, I can tell you that even with the best plans there are bumps in the road."
De Villa noted that the province has decided it's best to reallocate the available supply of vaccine to ensure it is administered to residents in long-term care facilities and high-risk retirement homes and to deliver second doses to people who have received their first dose.
"My understanding is that deliveries of Pfizer vaccine are expected to catch up through February and March," she added.
Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to resume this month
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander leading vaccine logistics for the federal government, said Canadians should expect only 50 per cent of the promised Pfizer-BioNTech doses the government was promised for the remainder of January.
Fortin said Canada will get only 82 per cent of the vaccine doses it expected this week, and no deliveries at all from Pfizer-BioNTech next week, before shipments resume in the last week of January.