Long-term care homes a top priority when COVID-19 vaccine arrives in early 2021: Dr. Etches

OTTAWA — Ottawa’s medical officer of health suggests Ottawa will receive a limited supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses early in 2021, and the top priority will be using the vaccine to “prevent hospitalizations and deaths” in long-term care homes

On Thursday, Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the first COVID-19 vaccine approval from the department could come before Christmas. Dr. Sharma said Pfizer’s vaccine candidate is the most advanced.

Meantime, the premiers are demanding answers from the federal government on when the COVID-19 vaccine will be approved for use in Canada and when doses will be distributed to the provinces. On Thursday, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott called on Prime Minister to ensure a timeline that would see Ontario get its first doses in early 2021.

Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron, Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health will be working with the Federal government, the Ontario government and the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 task force on rolling out the vaccine.

“What we’re anticipating is the initial supplies will come in the early part of the year but they’ll be limited in number. They’ll be for the priority groups, most likely trying to prevent hospitalizations and deaths. So where do we see the hospitalizations and deaths, mostly unfortunately from long-term care,” said Dr. Etches Thursday afternoon.

“So I know that will be a population we want to really be prepared to get the vaccine to people as soon as we receive it. That will probably be the initial focus for the first three months of the year.”

Last week, the City of Ottawa announced the emergency and protective services department will lead the planning of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for Ottawa, working with Ottawa Public Health.

Dr. Etches says that “hopefully” Ottawa Public Health and the task force will be able to distribute the COVID-19 to more “priority groups” in the first three months of 2021. 

“Hopefully we’ll have vaccines that don’t have to be kept at such low temperatures, so the logistics will become easier over the time,” said Dr. Etches.

“And then the quantity will grow and we’ll be able to get to more of the population. That’s the general approach I could foresee, but I don’t have any more details.”

Pfizer’s vaccine requires storage at minus 80C. Canada has secured 20 million doses of the vaccine.

With files from CP24’s Joshua Freeman and CTV News Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer Rachel Aiello

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