Ontario administers first COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto

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TORONTO — Ontario has administered the provinces’ first COVID-19 vaccination to a health-care worker from a Toronto nursing home.

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre, received the first dose at a hospital in the city, the province said.

She was among a group of five workers from the nursing home getting immunized today at the University Health Network.

Quidangen has been employed at the Rekai Centre since 1988, the government said, and worked throughout a COVID-19 outbreak at the nursing home.

The immunizations in Toronto come hours before Quebec expects to administer its first doses of the vaccine. About 2,000 people in long-term care homes in Montreal and Quebec City are first in line to get the shot in that province.

In Ontario, 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived on Sunday. The government plans to give them to approximately 2,500 health-care workers.

Half the shots will be administered this week and the other half will be intentionally held back to give the same workers a required second dose 21 days later.

Premier Doug Ford has said 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 province said it will also be prioritizing the distribution of the vaccine in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19.

The government has said, however, that the vaccine isn’t expected to be more broadly available to the general public until April.

Retired Gen. Rick Hillier, who is leading the province’s vaccine task force, says an additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive later this month. Those doses will be provided to 14 hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots.

Hillier has said Ontario also expects to receive between 30,000 and 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the new year, pending its approval by Health Canada.

The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses – allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people – during the first three months of 2021.

Hillier said the vaccine will be available to the public starting in April, during the second phase of the rollout, and it will take between six to nine months to distribute shots across the province.

The third and final phase of the plan would then see the vaccine available through places like pharmacies on a regular basis, he said.

Hiller said the start of the vaccination program at Toronto’s University Health Network and the Ottawa Hospital will serve as a pilot that will help fine-tune the next step of the rollout.

The government said on Friday that the hospitals receiving the first shots have made security arrangements to ensure the vaccine is safe from theft.

Ontario reported 1,940 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and 23 new deaths due to the virus.

In total, 857 people are hospitalized in Ontario due to COVID-19, including 244 in intensive care.

The latest figures bring the total of COVID-19 cases in Ontario to 142,121, with 3,972 deaths, and 121,563 cases resolved.