The City of Toronto’s COVID-19 mass immunization clinic which opened Monday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, despite recently announced delays in delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, will have to pause operations on Friday.
The clinic is for those designated by the province as next in line for the vaccine, including frontline healthcare workers in the shelter system and public health workers who will then work as COVID-19 immunizers.
It was to run for at least six weeks, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. However, in the city’s daily COVID-19 briefing, officials said it will have to pause due to a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine.
“The fact that we learned today that we are going to have to pause only after the first week is very disappointing to all of us,” Toronto fire chief Matthew Pegg said.
The city said this clinic will help test the setup in non-hospital settings, providing a playbook that the province can use to establish other immunization clinics when the vaccine becomes available to the general public.
“I see today as being something that should give people hope for a number of reasons,” said Mayor John Tory. “We are doing something here that will be of benefit provincewide. The lessons learned here …those lessons will shared across the province.”
Pegg added that though health officials will only have limited data due to the pause in operations, he is confident it will still be enough to help guide that playbook, which will be released to help residents better understand the nuance of getting vaccinated.
“The playbook will not need to pause. We will continue with that work,” Pegg said. “Somewhat of a work in progress. Somewhat of a decision that needs to be made in accordance with Gen. Hillier’s team.”
Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa, said she understands that most residents wish to be vaccinated rapidly but asked that everyone be patient as the process continues.
“Be patient, be optimistic and let me add, be determined,” de Villa said.
“As vaccines arrive, we still have to protect ourselves against COVID-19. With those efforts, the case counts will decline. In Toronto, we’re already seeing signs that we ourselves are the best defense against the spread of the virus.”
Pegg confirmed that a small group of City health care workers was vaccinated against the virus earlier Monday morning.
On Saturday the province adjusted the guidelines for the second dose after Pfizer announced it is temporarily reducing deliveries from its European facility to all countries receiving its vaccine, including Canada. Pfizer’s production delays will reduce deliveries by an average of 50 per cent over the coming weeks.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, says as a result some recipients of the vaccine will now get their second shot between 21 and 42 days after the first dose. Long-term care residents along with their essential caregivers and staff who have already received the first dose will now get the second dose in 21 to 27 days.
The initial goal of the clinic was to administer 250 doses per day for three weeks with the second dose scheduled for the same people three weeks later, however, officials note that schedule is based entirely on vaccine supply.
The first vaccine vial emptied on Monday will be kept as a piece of history and added to the City of Toronto artifact collection.
“This is going to be great, it’s going to be a pilot project we can expand across the province,” said Premier Doug Ford.
The clinic was scheduled to administer the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, but due to the supply issues with the Pfizer vaccine, the clinic’s doses may be reallocated elsewhere by the province as required.
City council and the Board of Health is also going to ask the Ford government on Monday to require employers to provide at least five paid sick days a year to workers, as well as funding for businesses so workers can have at least 10 days of sick pay annually if an infectious disease emergency is declared.