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Ontario scales back COVID-19 vaccinations over Christmas holidays

Last Updated Dec 27, 2020 at 11:40 pm EDT

Only five of a possible 17 vaccination clinics across Ontario were in operation over the Christmas holidays as staffing challenges forced the province to scale back operations.

Ministry of Health officials tell CityNews just over 11,200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered since Dec. 15 but less than 500 of those were given out since Christmas Eve.

By comparison, Quebec has already administered 17,316 vaccines since Dec. 14, with more than 6,000 alone given since Dec. 24.

Health officials admit fewer doses were given out due to challenges with Christmas break staffing.

“Schedules for vaccination clinics were adjusted over the holidays to ensure that there was no impact on staffing levels within the long-term care homes or for the hospitals operating the clinics,” read a statement from provincial health officials.

After clinics were closed on Dec. 25 and 26, five hospitals were back in operation on Sunday and that number is expected to double for Monday with the full compliment of 17 hospitals back online Dec. 29.

“Clearly any pause in vaccinations is far from ideal,” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Toronto. “Yes there are targets and targets are important. But I think the other important thing is we need access to vaccinations. It’s great to set goals but a lot of this is going to be determined on how much vaccines come into the country.”

Ontario began innoculating health care workers with the initial 6,000 of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 14 and says it expects to receive 90,000 doses by the end of the month.

Vaccinations are currently being administered to those workers in high-risk settings, such as long-term care homes and hospitals.

An additional 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna vaccine is scheduled to be delivered this week to long-term care homes in regions that were designated as lockdown prior to the provincial shutdown on Saturday. That would have been regions in the GTHA plus Windsor-Essex.

Phase 2 of the province’s vaccine rollout plan will see health care workers and long-term care residents receive the shot starting in early 2021, with most Ontario residents getting inoculated as part of Phase 3.