‘The shortage is very frustrating’: Moderna shipment delays impacting Toronto vaccine clinics

By Lucas Casaletto

Mayor John Tory says while Toronto’s city-run immunization clinics are capable of vaccinating thousands of residents per day, a recent delay by Moderna is greatly limiting the city’s progress.

Several clinics, such as the ones being run in Thorncliffe Park and North York, have been forced to temporarily close due to limited supply, something Tory admits is frustrating.

“We do know our clinics can vaccinate more people if we have more supply,” the Mayor said.

“… We do know that many of our hospital partners that use Moderna in their clinics didn’t receive a shipment this week. The shortage of Moderna is very frustrating. We all want everyone vaccinating as many people as possible, non-stop.”

Both the province (Premier Doug Ford) and the city’s top doctor said a delay in the latest shipment of Moderna vaccines was to blame for the supply shortages.

“We are only stocking our clinics with just enough vaccine to see us through until the next delivery,” Dr. Eileen de Villa said.

“There were vaccines that were anticipated to arrive on a certain date. Unfortunately, that date was missed.”

The nine city-operated clinics can administer 56,322 doses of vaccine per week, the city said in a news release, adding that based on provincial government forecasts for vaccine availability, these clinics should be able to administer up to 122,000 doses each week as doses increase.

On Monday, Tory and his counterparts across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) issued a joint statement, calling on the provincial government for additional vaccine supply.

“As the GTHA faces a third wave and our hospitals work to help people, our municipalities continue to administer all vaccine available from the provincial and federal governments,” the GTHA mayors and chairs said.

RELATED: Hotspot residents 18+ will be contacted directly for COVID-19 vaccine at mobile clinics – Pegg

On Wednesday, the province announced it has yet to receive 303,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine that were assumed to arrive between April 5th-11th.

The Ford government said that while the province has the capacity to vaccinate 150,000 eligible residents per day, further “delays in shipments and lack of visibility of vaccine volumes into May” are having an impact.

The second shipment, which will include around 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine that was set to arrive in the province by April 19th-25th, is also delayed and isn’t expected until the end of the month.

“A 10-day delay doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’ve already booked appointments when you’ve set up those vaccine clinics … it is incredibly frustrating not only for the public health units … but also for the citizens who were excited and wanting to get that vaccine,” said Sylvia Jones, the province’s solicitor general.

According to updated trial data, Moderna’s two-shot vaccine prevented more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases. That is slightly lower than the 94.1 percent efficacy rate when the vaccine was cleared for use in December.

“These delays [Moderna] have a significant impact on [the] continuity of clinic operations and require contingency planning to avoid cancellation of planned appointments,” says the province.

With over 390,000 doses of Pfizer’s vaccine set to arrive in Ontario on Monday, it’s expected some city-run clinics – currently only administering the Pfizer shot – will be able to resume treating residents throughout the week.

Toronto Fire Chief and head of Emergency Management Matthew Pegg says the city books appointments based on the delivery timelines provided to them by the province that comes down from the federal government.

“We are expecting that [Pfizer] shipment. There’s no indication that there are any issues with it,” Pegg said.

“If that shipment were to be delayed, we would have to respond to that and look at how we would adjust the distribution of vaccines and that could potentially affect booked appointments.”

Pegg says there is no indication of any risks when it comes to securing Pfizer doses from the provincial government, adding that city health care workers do not “stockpile” vaccines that aren’t administered.

“Any doses of Pfizer vaccine delivered to the City that are not used as a result of missed or cancelled appointments are provided directly to Team Toronto hospital and healthcare partners to be used in their vaccination efforts,” the city says.

“There is no stockpiling of vaccine.”

Ontario announced its first pop-up clinic that will be made available to vaccinate around 15,000 people aged 18-and-up over the next several weeks.

The pop-up clinic in North Etobicoke at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, located near Finch Avenue, will run in collaboration with BAPS Charities, Toronto Public Health, and the William Osler Health System.

The site began administering doses on Wednesday.


Push is on to get as many Torontonians vaccinated as possible

Public health has compiled a list of over 1,200 locations for pop-up and mobile clinics in hot spots; this as more vaccination clinics in the city are shut down because of a lack of supply.

Mayor Tory says that just today, Unity Health Toronto has deployed mobile teams to a Toronto community housing building at St. Jude’s community homes and The Good Sheppard drop-in program.

Tory also announced the formation of Toronto’s accessibility task force on COVID-19 vaccines to advise on enhanced support and access to the vaccine for people with disabilities.

To date, 804,008 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Toronto.

People born in 1961 or earlier, and age 50 or older who live in hot spot neighbourhoods as identified by postal code, can book vaccination appointments online or by phone at City-run COVID-19 immunization clinics.

As of Tuesday evening, approximately 281,475 people in Toronto have booked COVID-19 vaccination appointments at a city-run clinic.

With files from The Canadian Press

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