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EDITORIAL: Organization, not talk, needed for vaccine roll-out (Mar. 2021)

March 26th, 2021 · No Comments

We called in the army to fight COVID-19, then hired a retired general to lead the vaccine roll-out. Now, as the process stumbles forward, the general’s off with a pat on the back from our noble premier. At a press conference announcing the end of General Rick Hillier’s contract, Premier Ford told the press, “I tried to get him to renew (his contract) but, as he said, ‘Doug, I did the job I came for, we got everything set up.’’’ Yet here we are, with fewer than three quarters of our seniors over the age of 80 vaccinated and the premier still falsely blaming the Federal government for a lack of supply. The governmental incompetence on display is as astounding as it is dangerous. 

Our province has been one of the hardest hit areas of Canada, yet we’re among the slowest to roll out vaccines. Ontario’s online portal for registration did not open until March 15, and by then frustrated municipalities, hospitals, and health districts had set up their own systems. So many people and organizations have pushed this roll-out forward – even the Toronto Public Library team has stepped up, calling all members over the age of 70 to help them register for their vaccination – but we have not seen the same commitment coming from our provincial government.

They were pleased to announce recently that they were “ahead of schedule,” and that the 75-80 year old cohort could begin inoculations. As good as that sounds, it is only possible because 30 percent of people over 80 did not get a dose – the prospect of long lines and the perceived risk of infection at inoculation sites served as a major deterrent. Some are homebound and there is no system in place that allows them to get vaccinated.

The province’s “ethical framework” around the vaccine roll-out is supposed to prioritize those people most at risk from COVID-19.  The biggest risk factor is age, but police and firefighters have been pushed ahead in the queue. Stating that, “our cops are tops,” does not equate to a public health strategy, rather, it’s an election strategy.

Premier Ford likes to blame the federal government for problems with the vaccine roll-out, pointing to a lack of supply. Those problems have been resolved, the supply chain from Ottawa is set to triple by April. The federal government has distributed vaccines equitably, and the province is not following suit. Toronto represents 20 per cent of the province’s population, has one half of its doctors, and has received only enough vaccine from the province for 6.5 per cent of its population. Haldimand—Norfolk has received 10.8 per cent by comparison.

What we need now is an equitable and risk-based plan to get the supplied doses to the people who need them most. The race is on to get people vaccinated before COVID variants spike. We need someone like Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a top infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto and member of the task force, to take charge. Science needs to take the lead, not politics.


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