OTTAWA — Ottawa’s first COVID-19 vaccines were given to frontline health care workers on Tuesday, the beginning of the largest inoculation in the city’s history.
Jo-Anne Miner, a personal support worker at St. Patricks’ Home on Riverside Drive, was administered the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine just after 8 a.m. Tuesday morning at the Ottawa Hospital Civic campus.
“I just hope it’s the start to everybody wanting to take the vaccine to help our city become COVID-free,” Miner told CTV Morning Live shortly after getting the shot.
Miner is the first of 100 people receiving the vaccine in Ottawa on Tuesday. She said she’s happy to know she will soon be able to work with residents at the home knowing that she, and they, will be safe.
Venus Lucero, a nurse at the Ottawa Hospital, administered the shot.
Ottawa’s first vaccine comes just over nine months after the first diagnosed COVID-19 case in the city.
“Today is a monumental day in our efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, and protect the community,” Ottawa Hospital executive vice-president Joanne Read said in a news release. “Our hospital is delighted to be part of this unprecedented effort.”
The city received 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as part of its initial tranche; those will be administered to 1,500 staff at long-term care facilities across the city. The Pfizer vaccine requires two shots to be given three weeks apart.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said Tuesday afternoon that between 1,100 and 1,200 people are already registered for the vaccine, and the shots will be administered through Friday. The goal is to give the first 1,500 recipients their first doses before the weekend.
“That is our goal and based the way in which the trial started today we believe we can be able to achieve that,” said Joanne Read, the vice president of planning and support services at the Ottawa Hospital, speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon. “We had been saying it might be a week to two weeks but, looking at the dry runs that did happen over the course of this past weekend, we’re in good shape to continue and it looks like we’ll be able to complete it by the end of the day Friday.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu visited the hospital Tuesday morning as the first vaccines were given out.
“It will still be a long winter, but as we start seeing the proportion of the population increase that has vaccines,we’re going to be able to start thinking about what measures we can loosen a bit,” Trudeau told health care workers. “But before we get there, we’ve got to get through the winter…we’re going to do it together.”
Ontario’s first vaccinations were given out at Toronto’s University Health Network on Monday.
Quebec started vaccinating long-term care residents on Monday.
Later Tuesday, Trudeau announced Canada has secured up to 168,000 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine by the end of December, pending Health Canada approval. There are also 200,000 more Pfizer vaccine doses scheduled to arrive next week.
They will be administered at 70 sites across the country, up from 14 this week.
Ottawa ready for more vaccines to arrive
Ottawa’s head of emergency and protective services, Anthony Di Monte, says the city will be ready to distribute future vaccines as more doses become available.
Di Monte is leading the local vaccine distribution task force and told reporters at a media availability Tuesday afternoon that while some decisions are still being made at the provincial level, his team will be ready to roll them out as they’re announced.
“The provincial government is looking at priorities of what the best order of distribution should be and that work is still being done,” Di Monte said. “The next roll out, as soon as we know, we’ll let people know the order of priority of the next groups. What we’re doing at the local level is to ensure that we’re ready and that’s really our responsibility to put needles in arms.”
Di Monte says he’s in regular contact with retired General Rick Hillier, who is overseeing Ontario’s vaccine rollout and is working to identify additional vaccination sites in Ottawa.
“We’re looking at all of that right now and we’re looking at scenarios. As you know, Dr. Etches and her public health team do vaccination clinics and we already have that infrastructure in place. Some of those may not be up to snuff, so we’ll adjust that,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress but you can expect to see several options appear and we’re working on all of those.”
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said OPH would also be working to reduce as many barries to access to the vaccine when it becomes available to the general public.
“Just because the vaccine is available, people need to learn that it’s available, people need to have their questions answered, they may need transportation to the site,” Dr. Etches said. “So, all of these elements are what the local level task force is looking at, making sure we’re using all the tools we have to address any barriers to immunization for populations at higher risk.”
OPH launches new vaccine website
Ottawa Public Health has launched a new website with details about the COVID-19 vaccine, including how it works and what side effects it may have.
You can find the page at ottawapublichealth.ca/covid19vaccine.
Dr. Etches said the website is just one of the ways OPH plans to communicate information about the vaccine to the general public.
“There’s no one communication method that works for everybody and so we’re working with partners to make sure they have the information they need,” she said. “We’ll be working with community leaders, making sure we use multiple languages. We’re working on short messages to get out on social networks. All of these things are important to help people understand we have a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19. This is incredible and it will make a difference as we’re able to grow the number of people who receive the vaccine.”
Joanne Read, vice president of planning and support services at the Ottawa Hospital said she heard from some of the people who received the first vaccines Tuesday morning that it’s just like getting a flu shot.
“They said, we’re going to go back and communicate to our staff about the process,” Read said. “I think, as we get more people vaccinated with the doses we do have and people start to see from them that it is okay, that will be another sign. A couple said today when they were stepping up to get the vaccine some of the coworkers said, ‘If you’re doing it, I can do it, too.'”
Read said the people who received the vaccine Tuesday morning were all doing fine as of Tuesday afternoon.