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'Severely diminished' vaccine supply has health unit rethinking local rollout

It's possible the plan announced today by the health unit to vaccinate retirement home residents over the next 10 days will be delayed
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Dr. Charles Gardner provides a media briefing and live Facebook update on Jan. 18, 2021

The immunization roll-out in Simcoe-Muskoka was moving full speed ahead, but a disruption in vaccine supply has taken the wind out of its sails. 

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said he received news this afternoon the region’s supply of Pfizer-BioNTech is “going to be severely diminished.” 

The delay is Canada-wide as Pfizer has announced it will cut the number of doses delivered to Canada in half while it upgrades its Belgium factory. 

“Because of that we need to take stock of what our approach is going to be,” said Gardner during a media briefing this afternoon. 

The health unit announced today it had finished the first round of vaccines for all eligible long-term care home residents in the region. 

The next phase of the local rollout was to include more than 3,000 residents of the region’s 32 retirement homes, each of whom would get their first dose of vaccine in the next 10 days. 

It’s possible the timeline will now have to change. 

“Timing is all,” said Gardner. “We didn’t know we were going to get this degree of a slowdown.” 

The health unit will have to consider the number of doses it expect to receive based on today’s news and how many people still need second doses. 

“The province has certainly indicated we have to do all we can not to miss second doses,” said the doctor. “We have to take stock of the information we just received and get more information and on the details.” 

The health unit also has preliminary plans in the works to provide vaccinations to adults living in First Nations communities in the region. Those plans too, have to be reconsidered in light of the slowed supply. 

“At this point, we do not know,” said Gardner. “It’s certainly bad news.” 

However, the supply slowdown is expected to be temporary and the health unit will be ready when more vaccine is available to expand its vaccination rollout further.

Erika Engel

About the Author: Erika Engel

Erika regularly covers all things news in Collingwood as a reporter, photographer and community editor.
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