A healthcare worker in the Ottawa area was the first Canadian to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine yesterday, only 10 months into the worldwide shutdown.

“This is a watershed moment – the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic. The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain on our guard,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Ford marked the historic occasion to roll-out COVID-19 vaccines yesterday, thanking Anita Quidangen for her work in Ottawa long-term care homes and for taking the first official dose of the new vaccine.

“She has worked tirelessly to care for some of our most vulnerable, both throughout this pandemic and since her first days as a PSW in 1988. Anita has spent years rolling up her sleeves to protect our province, and today, she didn't hesitate to find a new way to do so. She represents the best of the Ontario Spirit,” said Ford.

About 2,500 healthcare workers in the Ottawa and Toronto areas will be receiving the first doses of the vaccine in the province, as they work in areas with the highest infection rates across Ontario. As the program expands, healthcare workers and those considered vulnerable will continue to see the first round of doses.

“I encourage everyone to be patient. This is the biggest immunization program in a century, and our vaccine supply will arrive in stages,” added Ford, noting this week’s roll-out is only the first phase of their three-phase vaccine implementation plan.

Ford notes General Rick Hillier and the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force are working with Health Canada and other provincial and territorial partners to ensure the vaccines are distributed quickly, so people can get immunized as soon as possible. 250,000 doses are expected by the end of 2020.

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.

It’s nearly a miracle that the COVID-19 vaccine has been produced in under a year, as well as being approved by Health Canada last week after rigorous trials and testing. Over 100 COVID-19 vaccines were or still are in production, but vaccines do typically see a 93 per cent failure rate.

Discovery and research phases for a typical vaccine is normally two-to-five years, but they can take over 10 years to fully-develop. A global effort in 1967 to eradicate smallpox was a success by 1980, but on the other side, 17 companies are still attempting to cure the plague, which last popped up in Madagascar in 2017.

Regardless, Premier Doug Ford says as the vaccines roll-out to your area, all residents are asked to continue following all public health measures to keep their community as safe as possible over the holiday season.

“Avoid social gatherings, wear a mask when required, practice physical distancing, wash your hands frequently, and download the COVID Alert app. As we await the arrival of more vaccines, this is our best and only defence against this deadly virus.”

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.

For more information:
How will the COVID-19 vaccine be rolled out?
Indigenous adults, home care recipients on priority list for vaccine