Critics slam Ontario government over holiday vaccination slowdown

TORONTO — Opposition critics are slamming the Ford government over a scaled-back COVID-19 vaccination schedule over the holidays.

While the province has received around 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month, only a small fraction of those doses have been administered so far.

Doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine also began arriving in the province last week. Provincial officials had said Ontario was expected to receive about 53,000 doses of that vaccine by the end of December.

But according to the province, just 10,756 vaccine doses have been administered as of Dec. 24, when information was last updated.

According to reports, the province has scaled back the pace of vaccinations over the holidays.

In a tweet, Premier Doug Ford’s communications director said the modified schedule had been requested by hospitals.

“It was hospital sites administering the vaccines that asked for the slightly amended schedule, recognizing challenges with holiday staffing and the need to care for patients,” Travis Kann wrote.

The Ontario Hospital Association did not respond to requests for clarification about whether any hospitals had in fact requested a slow-down of vaccinations over the holidays.

In an interview with CP24 Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called the news “troubling” and “frustrating.”

“This is a situation that is literally one that could save lives if we were ramping up that vaccine distribution instead of ramping it down,” Horwath said. “Other provinces managed to do that. But we have this huge problem with the government not being forthcoming in terms of its plan, so we don’t know whether this was planned all along, or whether it wasn’t because they’re simply not providing the transparency that they should be providing.”

In a statement, Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said there should be no delays.

“The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, we can’t afford to delay its rollout by nearly a week. With so many doses on hand and so few administered, there’s no excuse for the delay,” he said.

Dr. Michelle Cohen, a family doctor in Brighton, Ont., told CP24 that the idea health care workers want a pause or slow-down of vaccinations is “completely ridiculous.”

“Putting the blame on us or on hospitals, first of all, doesn’t make sense. Hospitals run 24-7, including during the holidays,” Cohen said. “This is a health crisis, unlike any other that the province has experienced in recent memory.”

She said many health-care workers would have “gladly stepped up to the plate” and volunteered their time if need be to keep vaccinations rolling.

The Ministry of Health did not immediately return a request for comment on how much the vaccination schedule has been slowed down and why.  

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