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Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout hampered by shipment delays, provincial government insists

Ontario government officials continue to insist the province’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is still impacted by shipment delays amid news of clinics being shut down due to lack of supply.

In a statement provided to Global News Wednesday afternoon by the Ontario Ministry of Health, an official said the province has been particularly affected due to delays with the Moderna vaccine.

“While we know the federal government is working hard to ensure the country’s vaccine rollout is a success, the greatest challenge to Ontario’s vaccine rollout remains a stable and reliable supply of vaccines,” a statement from spokesperson Adriana Dutkiewicz said.

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Dutkiewicz noted that a Moderna shipment received during the week of March 22 was only 30 per cent of what was anticipated and the remaining 70 per cent (225,600 doses) arrived in Ontario over the Easter weekend.

A shipment of 855,000 Moderna doses that was supposed to arrive in Canada during the week of April 5 arrived in the country Tuesday. Of that shipment, 303,100 are allotted for Ontario.

Dutkiewicz said a batch of nearly 500,000 Moderna doses set to be received by the province on Monday has now been delayed until April 29.

According to a federal government website, Ontario has received 4,506,495 COVID-19 vaccine doses.

On Wednesday, the province reported administering a record 112,817 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of vaccines administered in Ontario to 3,422,974.

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Dutkiewicz said all vaccines received are being allocated to Ontario residents.

“To be clear, every single vaccine dose received by the province has been allocated to a waiting Ontarian who has booked an appointment,” Dutkiewicz said.

“Nearly 2.5 million appointments have been booked through the provincial booking system alone. This does not include appointments booked through pharmacies, hospital clinics or public health units that are not using the provincial booking system.”

Several Toronto clinics temporarily close

Dutkiewicz’s comments came after several immunization clinics in Toronto announced that they would be closing due to supply issues.

First, on Tuesday evening, the University Health Network announced that it had paused vaccine registration for those aged 18 to 49 in three Toronto hot spot neighbourhoods because of limited supply.

UHN opened registration to that age group Monday for those in neighbourhoods with the following postal codes: M5V, M6E, and M6H.

“We have 20,000 people registered for the postal codes identified and the supplies of vaccine are not coming from the federal government, so we have put a hold on registering people and will close the BMO Centre vaccination site at Toronto Western and operate our clinic at MaRS at 25 per cent capacity,” UHN said in a statement.

The Scarborough Health Network (SHN) also announced that it was temporarily closing two mass vaccination sites, leading to around 10,000 appointments being scrapped.

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“Scarborough continues to struggle with the incomprehensible disparity in vaccine distribution for Canada’s most diverse community and one of Ontario’s most severe hot spots,” said Maureen Adamson, chair of SHN’s board.

Premier Doug Ford discussed the situation in Scarborough during an unrelated press conference Wednesday.

“I don’t blame them for doing this, they’re absolute champions out in Scarborough,” Ford said.

“They had booked more appointments hoping that they’d get more vaccines, hoping that the Moderna shipment that’s been delayed three times now and we won’t get for another few weeks, they were hoping it would come in.

“So I don’t blame them for overbooking 10,000 appointments. We were expecting the shipments to come in.”

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North York General and North York Toronto Health Partners said the vaccination clinic at Seneca College will temporarily close between April 17 and April 26.

The health network cited vaccine supply delays as the reason for the closure.

And the Toronto East Health Network reported appointments are not currently available at the Thorncliffe Park Community Hub mass immunization clinic due to a lack of supply.

“We know that having your vaccine appointment rescheduled is frustrating and are ready to administer the COVID-19 vaccine and expand to more vaccination sites as soon as we receive doses from the federal government,” Dutkiewicz said.

— With files from Gabby Rodrigues

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