Elliott confident province will have COVID-19 vaccine by 2021, vulnerable population ‘top priority’

By Lucas Casaletto

Ontario doesn’t yet know when its government will receive COVID-19 vaccines or how many doses, but the health minister sounded upbeat on Tuesday about the province’s ability to get the vaccine to people who need it quickly, and efficiently.

Speaking without premier Doug Ford who was forced to miss the briefing due to a ‘non-COVID related, non-urgent medical emergency, Christine Elliott said a decision on who will be inoculated first is coming shortly.

“Our most vulnerable residents are people that we want to protect and of course, we want to make sure that our frontline healthcare providers can continue doing their excellent work,” said Elliott.

“We are discussing the priorities now but we will have that ready in very short order because we don’t have a lot of time for this. We want to make sure that we’re ready to go as soon as those vaccines land in Ontario.”

Elliott said the provincial government will be looking for help from businesses and people with logistics, patient care and pharmaceutical experience.

The minister of health also confirmed that the government has spoken to Pzifer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, and Moderna about their respective vaccines.

“This is absolutely critical for planning,” said Elliott. “We’re working with distribution experts like McKesson and Shoppers Drug Mart who not only have the warehousing capacity for vaccines like this, but know how to get these vaccines to their network like hospitals and other front line providers.”

“By working with these industry leaders, our federal and provincial partners and the experts of our task force led by General [Rick] Hillier, I am confident that we will have one of the best rollout plans in the country,” added Elliott.

RELATED: Ford announces COVID-19 vaccine task force: ‘We will get vaccines to every part of this province’

On Tuesday, prime minister Justin Trudeau battled claims that Canada is at the back of the line for a COVID-19 vaccine, saying we are guaranteed some of the first doses from one of the frontrunners.

It comes as federal and provincial governments try to determine priority populations for the shot.

“We’re in the right place to have access to safe, effective vaccines as soon as possible,” said Trudeau.

Moderna is considered one of the leading candidates for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine and Trudeau said the company’s CEO has guaranteed that Canada will get a share of the first doses produced.

The federal government expects the first vaccines for COVID-19 will be made available in the first three months of the new year.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said those decisions will ultimately be made by the provinces and territories, with some input from Ottawa.

“At the end of the day, it is the provinces who deliver healthcare and it’s the provinces who will decided on the priority populations,” said Hajdu. “Of course, we’re working closely to make sure we have coordination across the country and that we agree on the principles, which in fact we have.”

Trudeau confirmed work is underway with the provinces on that common list of priority populations, detailing who will be getting the first doses as they arrive.

“We should all agree across the country on what that list looks like,” said the prime minister.

“And make sure that it is applied fairly right across the country.”

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