City to prioritize second doses of COVID-19 vaccines as Pfizer cut limits supply
OTTAWA -- City officials tell CTV News that a temporary cut to shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will affect Ottawa's ability to vaccinate more residents, and the focus will shift in the coming weeks to delivering the mandatory second doses to residents who have already received their first.
Late last week, Pfizer announced a temporary cut to vaccine deliveries to Canada due to expansion plans at the pharmaceutical giant's European manufacturing facility. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is leading Canada’s logistical rollout, said Canada would be receiving half of what was initially expected over the next four weeks.
This means City of Ottawa officials are unsure how many more doses the capital will be getting.
Typically, the city can expect around 5,600 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Tuesdays and officials are hoping this week's delivery is not affected, but the status of future shipments remains unclear.
As of Monday morning, officials said there were only a few hundred doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine left in the city. Ottawa Public Health reported that 21,938 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered locally out of 22,245 received.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday the next shipment of vaccines to Ontario would be reduced by 20 per cent and the following shipment would be 80 per cent smaller. Larger shipments are expected in late February and early March, Elliott said.
"This is a very temporary situation," Elliott said. "It has to do with the amounts that we receive from Pfizer through the federal government but this will affect shipments of vaccines across the province."
In order to compensate for smaller shipments, health-care workers who received their first doses of the vaccine may have to wait much longer for the second dose, possibly up to the maximum 42 days allowed by Pfizer. However, officials stress the effort to immunize residents of long-term care homes will not be delayed and the second shots will be delivered within the 21 to 27-day timeframe.
Nearly all long-term care residents have had at least one dose: Memo
A memo to city council, which was co-signed by Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Anthony Di Monte and Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches, says that while there will be challenges in the coming weeks, significant progress was made on vaccinating residents of long-term care homes.
"As of January 15, 2021, the first dose of the vaccine has been made available to all 28 long-term care homes. Vaccinations were provided to residents, workers and essential caregivers. Over 92 per cent of all (long-term care home) residents received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine," it said.
In the coming days and weeks, focus will shift to ensuring the mandatory second doses are delivered on time.
"The supply for this week will be used to administer second doses to ensure that those individuals who have received the first round of vaccinations become immunized, as directed by the Province," the memo said. "The total amount of vaccine that will be distributed to the City of Ottawa next week, as well as following weeks, and precise delivery dates are not yet known. These decisions are also made by the Province."
The memo said priority for second doses would be given to long-term care residents, followed by all others who had received their first shots.
"Long-term care and high-risk retirement home residents and their essential caregivers, who have received their first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, will receive their second dose in 21 to 27 days. Staff who were vaccinated in the homes at the same time as the residents will follow the same schedule," the memo said. "All other recipients of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine must receive their second dose after 21 days and before 42 days."
On Friday, Ottawa Hospital CEO Cameron Love said he was optimistic everyone in Ottawa who wanted a COVID-19 vaccine would be able to receive one by the summer, but city officials who spoke to CTV News said the cut in shipments by Pfizer could affect that plan. Officials are hopeful, however, that they can make up for lost time once shipments stabilize.
Mayor Jim Watson told CTV News on Saturday that the announcement from Pfizer is a setback for the city, but he remained hopeful vaccines would be in people's arms by the summer.
One high-risk retirement home and one congregate care home for older adults have also been provided vaccines, the memo to city council said. CTV News can confirm that the Valley Stream Retirement Residence in Nepean has received vaccines.
"Both homes were experiencing exceptional health concerns and as a result, OPH prioritized the administration of vaccines to these two additional sites to protect our community, in-line with the provincial guidance to protect high risk homes following the (long-term care homes)," the memo said.
With files from CTV's Graham Richardson and CTV's Peter Szperling.