It’s an important question, one that Kenora MP and Shadow Minister for Northern Affairs, Eric Melillo, says he hasn’t been able to find a straight answer to. How exactly will the COVID-19 vaccine be rolled out in Ontario?

“It’s a great question. I wish I had an answer, but the government hasn’t detailed much of a plan on how they plan to distribute the vaccines,” explained Melillo.

Health Canada approved the use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, after rigorous clinical trials to determine their effectiveness and safety. Officials say they will continue to monitor the vaccine to ensure it continues to remain safe.

“Having the Health Canada approval and knowing the vaccines are coming is a very important and positive step, but according to the briefings I’ve had, the government currently does not actually have a plan to get the vaccines to northern regions of the country,” added Melillo.

At this point, Ontario says they’ll be prioritizing the rollout of the vaccine in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection, including those in the Red-Control and Lockdown zones.

The Northwestern Health Unit region was moved into the Yellow-Protect category of Ontario’s COVID-19 response program late last month, which will remain in effect for a minimum of 28 days, or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time the region will be reassessed.

If our local COVID-19 numbers taper off by that time, northwestern Ontario could move back into the Green-Prevent tier by Christmas Day.

COVID-19 vaccines are expected to only be available for non-pregnant adults over the age of 18, based on early clinical trials of the vaccine. However, the groups authorized to receive vaccines could change and the program could be expanded.

The immunization program will also focus on healthcare workers and the most vulnerable populations in those regions. Canada is set to receive about 249,000 vaccines by the end of 2020, with the first doses expected by next week.

Specifically, groups receiving the early vaccine doses in the first few months of the Ontario immunization program will include:

- Residents, staff, essential caregivers, and other employees of congregate living settings (e.g., long-term care homes and retirement homes) that provide care for seniors as they are at higher risk of infection and serious illness from COVID-19;

- Health care workers, including hospital employees, other staff who work or study in hospitals, and other health care personnel;

- Adults in Indigenous communities, including remote communities where risk of transmission is high;

- Adult recipients of chronic home health care.

As the province prepares for the arrival of vaccines, it remains critically important that all Ontarians continue following public health advice to protect our communities and most vulnerable populations, and to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This includes staying home if you have any symptoms, even mild; maintaining two metres of physical distancing from everyone else other than household members; avoiding social gatherings; wearing a face covering indoors and washing your hands thoroughly and regularly.

As of December 10, the health unit has reported a total of 133 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 2 probable cases. 10 cases are still considered active, and the region has seen a 0.3 per cent positivity rate.

For more information:
Indigenous adults, home care recipients on priority list for vaccine
Province talks about vaccine distribution