Promising a robust seasonal flu shot campaign, Premier Doug Ford unveiled the first piece of his government’s fall COVID-19 preparedness plan Tuesday, saying the rest of the strategy will be rolled out in the coming days.
Ford said Ontario will spend $70 million to purchase 5.1 million doses of the flu vaccine – 700,000 more than the previous year – in a bid to preserve hospital capacity as COVID-19 numbers continue to climb.
“The flu shot helps reduce visits to our emergency rooms and doctors’ offices,” Ford said. “This will help keep capacity in our health-care system.”
Watch: Premier urges Ontarians to get flu shot
In recent weeks, Ford has been under pressure to release the preparedness plan, which opposition politicians say should have been announced weeks ago.
Ford said the plan is complex, which is why the government has decided to release it in stages.
“This is a massive, massive plan, very jammed with items,” Ford said. “If we laid it all down at once, the message isn’t going to get out to the people.”
The province said some of the yet-to-be-disclosed elements of the plan will focus on expanded testing, case and contact management, as well as quick identification, management and prevention of COVID-19 outbreaks.
The strategy will also address ways to reduce health service backlogs, prepare for case surges and recruit and train health-care workers.
Health Minister Christine Elliott defended the strategy and said the flu shot campaign will be a key piece of province’s COVID-19 response.
The first shipments of the flu shots should be arriving in the province starting next week, she said, adding that high-dose shots geared towards seniors will be available in pharmacies for the first time.
“We will be supplying that vaccine to residents of long-term care homes and staff members as well and people in hospitals and retirement homes and other places of congregate living,” Elliott said. “This is a top priority to keep these very vulnerable citizens safe and healthy.”
The province reported 478 new cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday, along with three more associated deaths.