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Doctors urge Ontario to pick up pace on COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Ontario needs to adopt a "greater sense of urgency" with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the number of cases and deaths continues to rise, doctors say.

Vaccine rollout 'disappointing in terms of its speed,' says Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Canada is administered to personal support worker Anita Quidangen by registered nurse Hiwot Arfaso at The Michener Institute on Monday. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Ontario needs to adopt a "greater sense of urgency" with its COVID-19 vaccine rollout as the number of cases and deaths continues to rise, doctors say.

Dr. Brian Goldman, an emergency physician at Sinai Health System in Toronto, said the rollout should be faster. The Ontario government is vaccinating at a pace of a few thousand people a day.

"I'm looking for a sense of urgency, a greater sense of urgency," Goldman told CBC Toronto.

"The longer the residents of long-term care facilities and the people who work there remain unvaccinated, the more likely we're going to have longer outbreaks in long-term care facilities. That means more cases and more deaths."

Since the COVID-19 vaccination campaign began in Ontario on Dec. 14, the province says it has administered 42,419 doses as of 8 p.m. on Sunday night. Of those, 4,808 shots were administered on Sunday.

In the same three-week time period, from Dec. 14 to Monday, Ontario has reported 52,111 new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The province has received 148,350 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It has distributed about 48,000 of the Pfizer vaccine.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford looks on as a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is prepared by Pharmacy Technician Supervisor Tamara Booth Rumsey at The Michener Institute on Monday. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, said there is no question that the province should pick up the pace.
    
"The vaccine rollout has been disappointing in terms of its speed. We really have to get those vaccines from the freezers into people's arms," he said.

Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at the Sinai Health System and University Health Network in Toronto, agreed, saying the province needs to make vaccination a priority right now.

"We know where these people live. So there's no reason why we shouldn't be making our number one priority getting the 127,500 people in these homes vaccinated today," Sinha said.

UHN mobile teams have begun to vaccinate people

Mobile teams from the University Health Network, however, have made some progress on vaccinating people. They have taken doses of the Moderna vaccine to about 1,200 long-term care home staff and residents in the past few days.

Mobile teams from the University Health Network have made some progress on vaccinating people. They have taken doses of the Moderna vaccine to about 1,200 long-term care home staff and residents in the past few days. (Submitted by Dr. Brian Hodges)

The provincial government says it intends to cover all long-term care homes in the worst-affected regions by mid-January. 

Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer of health, told reporters at a news briefing on Monday that the province has "fairly aggressive timelines."

'We're ramping it up,' Ford says

Premier Doug Ford defended his government's COVID-19 vaccine program on Monday as Anita Quidangen, a health-care worker, became the first person in Ontario to receive the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Ford was on hand as Quidangen and four other health-care workers received their second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Toronto's University Health Network.

The premier acknowledged there have been "a few bumps in the road" in the province's immunization campaign but promised people would see an increase in numbers of people vaccinated soon.

"We're ramping it up and you're going to see a significant difference over the next few weeks there."

Quidangen says she hopes others will follow in her footsteps as the province continues its rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines.

With files from Mike Crawley and The Canadian Press

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