A long-term care worker became first person in Ontario to receive a dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, kicking off an immunization campaign expected to last the better part of a year.
Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place in Toronto, sat down for her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortly before 12 p.m. ET.
The shot was administered at a site in the University Health Network, a system of hospitals and health-care facilities throughout the city. The exact location is being withheld for security reasons, the province says.
Quidangen was one of five front-line health professionals slated to get a dose of the vaccine, which arrived by plane in Hamilton from the United States last night. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses several weeks apart.
“This is a watershed moment — the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain on our guard.”
WATCH | Toronto personal support worker becomes one of the first Canadians to get a COVID-19 vaccine:
The Ontario government described Quidangen as the first Canadian to be vaccinated, but a resident at a long-term care home in Quebec City actually received her shot several minutes earlier.
Ford also specifically acknowledged Quidangen, who has been a personal support worker since 1988 and often did double-shifts during the pandemic to care for residents.
“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,” Ford said.
The other health-care workers to receive the first dose of vaccine today were:
- Cecile Lasco, personal support worker.
- Derek Thompson, personal support worker.
- Lucky Aguila, registered practical nurse.
- Colette Cameron, registered nurse.
Speaking to CBC News Network this morning, retired general Rick Hillier, the head of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, called it “an incredible day.
“I think there’s a little trickle down the spine of every single person in the province and in the public service and in the health sector who have been working for months, who have been fighting COVID-19,” he continued.
WATCH | Retired general Rick Hillier on the arrival of first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Ontario:
Ford was on hand at Hamilton International Airport on Sunday to greet the UPS plane carrying the vaccine when it landed, marking a major milestone in the massive immunization campaign about to begin in earnest.
“Today’s milestone officially launches the first phase of our three-phase vaccine implementation plan to keep Ontarians safe and marks the beginning of the long journey to return life back to normal,” he said today.
Some 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are going to the UHN, while another 3,000 will go to The Ottawa Hospital.
An additional 85,000 or so doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to be provided to 14 hospital sites in Ontario regions currently in the red and lockdown levels of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions system by the end of the year.
Health-care workers, long-term care residents and their caregivers will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health-care will also be priority groups, the Ministry of Health has said.
The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses — allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people — during the first three months of 2021, with vaccines becoming more broadly available to the general public in April. It will take another six to nine months to immunize all Ontarians who opt to get the vaccine.
“I encourage everyone to be patient. This is the biggest immunization program in a century, and our vaccine supply will arrive in stages,” Ford said.
There were also words of caution from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, and Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the associate chief medical officer of health, at their regular afternoon news conference.
“We need to come down off this second wave so we can enter the vaccination phase full-tilt,” said Williams, urging Ontarians to double-down on following COVID-19 regulations.
Yaffe also pointed out that the vaccine still comes with some unknowns, including whether it is still possible to transmit the virus once you have received your two doses.
“The vaccine is very effective in preventing disease… they haven’t yet been able to show whether it prevents infection,” she said.
Meanwhile, this morning Ontario reported another 1,940 cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths from the illness.
The new cases include 544 in Toronto, 390 in Peel Region, 191 in York Region, 134 in Hamilton and 114 in Windsor-Essex.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Waterloo Region: 71
- Durham Region: 68
- Halton Region: 64
- Niagara Region: 58
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 47
- Ottawa: 45
- Middlesex-London: 43
- Simcoe Muskoka: 33
- Eastern Ontario: 27
- Southwestern: 26
- Brant County: 13
- Huron Perth: 12
- Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington: 11
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge: 11
(Note: All of the figures used for new cases in this story are found on the Ontario Health Ministry’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its daily epidemiologic summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit because local units report figures at different times.)
The Ministry of Education also reported 137 new cases that are school-related: 114 students and 23 staff members. Some 889 of Ontario’s 4,828 publicly funded schools, or about 18.4 per cent, have at least one case of COVID-19, while 18 schools are currently closed because of the illness.
The new cases bring the seven-day average to 1,841.
There are currently 16,586 confirmed, active infections of the novel coronavirus provincewide.
Ontario’s network of labs processed 57,091 test samples and reported a test positivity rate of 4.6 per cent, the highest it has been in about a week.
Moreover, the number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed cases of the illness increased 44 up to 857. Of those, 244 are being treated in intensive care and 149 require the use of a ventilator.
The 23 additional deaths bring the official toll to 3,972.
York, Windsor-Essex move into lockdown
As of today, York and Windsor-Essex have joined Toronto and Peel in the lockdown level.
It means indoor public events, dining in restaurants and bars, and close personal care services are off-limits, indoor sports facilities must close, and non-essential retail is limited to curbside pickup.
Five other regional health units are also tightening restrictions today.
Middlesex-London, Simcoe Muskoka, and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph move to the red “control” zone, the Eastern Ontario Health Unit moves to orange “restrict,” while Leeds, Grenville and Lanark shifts to yellow “protect.”
Ontario issues orders at Etobicoke long-term care home
Meanwhile, Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care has issued a mandatory management order at a long-term care home in Etobicoke that continues to battle an “increasing number” of COVID-19 cases among residents and staff.
In a release issued Monday evening, the province said Revera Long Term Care will need to temporarily hand over management of their Westside location to UniversalCare Canada Inc., which currently oversees 11 other long-term care homes across Ontario.
The company will manage Westside, located near Albion Road and Islington Avenue, for a minimum of 90 days, according to the release.
The province says enhanced management is necessary to return the long-term care facility to normal operations and protect residents.
“Our top priority is to protect our long-term care home residents,” Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, said in a release.
“We are grateful to the staff at UniversalCare Canada Inc. for working with Revera Long Term Care Inc. and Westside to stabilize the home and stop the COVID-19 outbreak.”
To date, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the ministry has intervened with mandatory management orders at seven long-term care facilities across the province.