Ontario is expected to receive its first shipment of the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by Wednesday and start administering it in long-term care homes this week, according to the chair of the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.
Retired General Rick Hillier made the announcement Tuesday morning and said the province does “not have the Moderna vaccine in our hands” yet but expects to receive about 50,000 doses in the next 24 hours.
“We anticipate that Moderna will arrive tomorrow, and within 48 to 72 hours we will be vaccinating people in several long-term care homes, potentially a retirement home. And again, we’ll be composing a playbook as we do that, and learning the lessons…,” Hillier said.
Although Hillier said the province is still waiting on the vaccine, federal officials did receive the first shipment of it last week in Toronto. Ottawa is responsible for dividing the vaccines among all provinces and territories.
The Moderna vaccines will be delivered to four sites in hot zones located across southern Ontario that have been hardest-hit by the virus, Hillier said.
The vaccines will initially be deployed at long-term care homes because it’s easier to transport compared to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, which needs to be stored at at least -70C.
“We want to go into one or two or three long-term care homes, we want to do it very carefully. We want to vaccinate the residents there using the staff in the homes where it’s possible, augmenting them where it’s necessary and preparing a playbook from that,” he said.
Currently there are 19 vaccination sites open but Hillier said he expects two more will open by next week.
As of 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the province has administered more than 17,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. However, the inoculations represent a small number of doses that have already been shipped to the province.
Ontario has already received around 90,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 21.
The rollout of the Moderna vaccine is part of Phase 1 of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout plan which is expected to inoculate 1.1 million people by April.
8.5 million people expected to be vaccinated by July
Hillier said the province expects to receive 50,000 doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in the beginning of January, followed by about 80,000 doses weekly of the Pfizer vaccine for the remainder of that month.
“And so by the end of Phase One [end of March], we hope to have vaccinated over a million health care workers, and people in the most vulnerable circumstances here in Ontario,” Hillier said. “We can’t do it any faster. We don’t have the vaccines coming to us any faster, and if we did we will use them more quickly.”
From April to July, 15 million doses are expected to be shipped to the province in Phase 2 and about 7.5 million people are set to receive the inoculation.
“We want to end Phase Two, with the bulk of the population, having had the opportunity to get the vaccine by the end of July,” Hillier said.
Phase 3 is set to begin near the end of July when the rest of Ontarians are expected to start receiving the vaccines at their doctor’s office or a pharmacy.
“Phase 3 for us is steady state. That is putting the COVID-19 vaccine into the same category as a shingles vaccine as a flu vaccine, and you can go to your family physician, your family clinic or the pharmacy closest to you, and you would be able to get your vaccine…,” he said.
The Ministry of Health also confirmed on Monday that vaccines are not being held back as they initially were in the beginning of the month to guarantee that those who were vaccinated would receive their necessary second dose.
“We are not holding or reserving doses, and are vaccinating as many people as possible, counting on confirmed shipments of the vaccine that will arrive over the coming weeks for second doses,” the statement read.
Ontario recorded a new single-day high of daily COVID-19 cases on Tuesday with 2,553 infections, beating the previous record of 2,447 on Christmas Eve.
Seventy-eight more people died from the disease in Ontario in the past 48 hours.
The province recorded 1,939 new cases on Monday, 2,005 on Sunday, 2,142 on Boxing Day and 2,159 on Christmas Day.
‘We will not take any more days off’
Hillier’s announcement on Tuesday comes after he apologized Monday evening for scaling back the vaccination schedule over the holidays.
On Christmas Eve, most vaccination clinics were open with shortened hours and all clinics were then closed on Dec. 25 and Dec. 26. Just five hospitals opened clinics on Sunday, while 10 were operating Monday.
After receiving backlash for pausing the vaccination schedule, Hillier said “we got it wrong” and that he takes “full responsibility” for the decision.
“We heard loudly from people this past 36 to 48 hours, they want it rolling all the time and we are, as of this morning. We have 19 hospitals that are acting as vaccination sites, we will add to that in this coming week, we will be working straight through. We will not take any more days off until we win this war against COVID-19,” Hillier said on Tuesday.
In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Health said the modified holiday schedule had been requested by hospitals due to “staffing challenges.”
“As a result, over the holidays hospital sites administering the vaccines requested to operate on slightly amended schedules, recognizing the challenges that the holidays can have on staffing levels in hospitals and long-term care homes,” the statement read.
However, Hillier later said that staffing wasn’t the issue and that the government wanted to give front-line workers a break during the holidays.
“We did it with honourable intentions. We felt that the folks working at long-term care homes who have reduced their staff somewhat working during the traditional holiday season to maybe get a little bit more of a break to some of the people who have been labouring so hard for the last 10 months…,” he said.
A number of doctors, including Ontario Medical Association President Samantha Hill, told CP24 that they would have gladly volunteered their time to keep vaccinations going over the holidays.
B.C. faces tough choices as near-term Pfizer vaccine shipments cut in half – Global News
British Columbia health officials are working to determine how to prioritize who gets a COVID-19 immunization, amid a reduction in shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine they admit will have a significant effect.
Pfizer has announced a temporary delay in shipments of the vaccine as it scales up its European production centre.
That means that the 50,000-dose shipment British Columbia was expecting in February will be slashed in half.
Ottawa reassures Canadians after announcement of COVID-19 vaccine delay
“In some sectors the delivery will be delayed and that is just the reality we face,” Dix told Global News on Friday.
“What it will really affect is the February and March period … it obviously impacts the priority groups and second doses as well.”
Dix added that there was no interruption in the supply of the Moderna vaccine, and that the delay would have little effect on Pfizer shipments next week.
Focus BC: Vaccine rollout, long term care strategy during the pandemic
In an interview with Global’s Focus BC, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said her team was working to determine who will and won’t get their shot in that time period.
Officials must weigh whether to skip some front-line workers who are still waiting for their shot, or to extend the time period between when each person receives their first and second dose.
Pfizer guidelines call for the doses to be administered 21 days apart, while Canada’s vaccine advisory committee has recommended vaccines be given a maximum of 42 days after the first.
“People need to be reassured that even after 48 days and longer, it does not just drop off dramatically,” Henry said.
“We will look at how much vaccine is coming in, how many people are due to get their vaccine in that week (when) we will have less, and then we will have to make decisions on we have to optimize who gets vaccine at that time.”
How will I know it’s my turn to get the vaccine? Your COVID-19 questions answered
Henry said the silver lining of the temporary delay in doses was that the work Pfizer is doing at its plant will allow it to produce more vaccine down the road, some of which will come to British Columbia.
As of Friday, B.C. had given at least one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to nearly 76,000 people.
The province has concentrated distribution of its first doses of vaccine to front-line health-care workers, those working and living in long-term care facilities and First Nations communities.
Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday the issues at Pfizer’s Belgium plant would result in an be an “unfortunate” situation where Canada would see its expected shipment of vaccine in February cut in half.
— With files from Richard Zussman and the Canadian Press
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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Couche-Tard seeks to rescue Carrefour bid as objections rise – BNN
Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.’s top executives are in Paris seeking to salvage a US$20 billion bid for Carrefour SA as officials from Canada press the French government to relax its objections to the deal.
Pierre Fitzgibbon, the economy minister in Couche-Tard’s home province of Quebec, said he would speak with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire Friday to apply “positive pressure” in favor of the transaction. Fitzgibbon said he would stress the close-knit relationship between the province and France that has facilitated previous deals, including Alstom SA’s purchase of Bombardier Inc.’s rail unit, announced last year.
Couche-Tard “could be a very strategic shareholder that would benefit Carrefour’s operations in France,” Fitzgibbon said to reporters.
The Canadian convenience-store operator plans to pump 3 billion euros (US$3.6 billion) into the French supermarket operator over five years, according to a person familiar with the situation, as part of a set of assurances to the government of President Emmanuel Macron.
Other pledges include preserving jobs for two years, keeping Carrefour’s headquarters in France and maintaining stock listings in France as well as Canada, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public.
Carrefour shares gave up some of this week’s gains after Le Maire said he was prepared to give a “clear and definitive no” to a deal, falling 2.9 per cent to 16.61 euros in Paris. Couche-Tard’s offer is for 20 euros per share; both sides see room for negotiation on the final price, according to people familiar with the situation.
A Carrefour representative didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Le Maire previously cited concerns about a French supermarket chain falling into foreign hands, saying the country needs to maintain domestic control over its food supply. France recently beefed up its authority to block foreign takeovers.
“We have the legal instrument available to us,” Le Maire said Friday. “I’d rather not have to use it, but will if needed.”
The finance ministry is ready to study the proposal once the Canadian side officially presents it, people familiar with the matter said earlier this week. They said Macron’s administration plans to take as long as needed to assess its impact on jobs and the sector.
Despite Le Maire’s strident comments, Couche-Tard Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch and other managers are in Paris negotiating with Carrefour’s leadership in an effort to come up with a package that’s palatable to the French company’s shareholders and the government, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Couche-Tard shares were up 5.1 per cent to $38.10 as of 12:47 p.m. Toronto time. Prior to Friday’s gains, they had fallen for eight consecutive days.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted that his government is prepared to throw its weight behind the company’s effort. “Our role as a government is always to be there to support Canadian companies including as they look to expand around the world. I know that discussions continue to be ongoing and I won’t make any further comments on that,” he told reporters Friday in Ottawa.
Carrefour employs around 100,000 people in France and is the country’s largest private employer, with stores ranging from convenience outlets to giant hypermarkets dotting the landscape.
The company has been implementing a turnaround plan under Chief Executive Officer Alexandre Bompard that involves investments in online shopping and organic food. Analysts point to the absence of geographical overlap between the companies.
The investment plan was reported first by Les Echos, which is owned by Bernard Arnault’s LVMH. Arnault also controls a 5.5 per cent stake in Carrefour.
If Couche-Tard goes ahead with its bid, it would need to submit its plans for screening by the Finance Ministry, which has 30 days to respond to such requests, to which it can add 45 days for a deeper examination. No reply from the government amounts to a refusal. In parallel, or before that, Couche-Tard could start informal negotiations on the commitments it’d be ready to make.
“If Carrefour’s board of directors and reference shareholders see a real strategic interest in the deal and manage to convince the Finance Ministry, the door could open,” said Pascal Bine, Paris-based partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
But that’s not a given in a country where riots over the availability of bread set in motion a process that toppled the monarchy in 1789, Bine added.
“Since the COVID crisis, a new paradigm has emerged, aimed at preserving the economic sovereignty of the country, including the supply of essential goods and services,” he said. “If people are not fed, it’s the Revolution.”
–With assistance from Kait Bolongaro and Derek Decloet.
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