Editorial: Sluggish vaccine rollout is a provincial travesty

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The long-awaited news that Ontario has received its first allocations of both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines was greeted with jubilation and a resurgence of hope by most of the province (over 60 percent of poll respondents say they will step up for the jab as soon as it is available)—but the apparently sluggish response of the province in getting those shots into arms defies the imagination, while the Ford government’s attempts to foist blame onto our province’s beleaguered health care workers is little short of unconscionable.

The arrival of the vaccine was hardly any kind of a surprise, but even had the exact timing of the vaccine’s arrival had been uncertain, there has still been an immense amount of time available to ensure that the infrastructure would be in place and ready for a rapid rollout once the doses were in hand.

Thankfully, our Island professionals have put together crucial information on infrastructure and demographics that will help speed up the rollout and submitted that information to Public Health Sudbury and Districts. But there is still a dearth of information available to administrators of long-term care (LTC) facilities as to when and how they will be receiving their allotments of vaccine—that simply defies all logic.

With the bulk of the massive die-off from the virus taking place in our LTC facilities, the question rises as to why all LTC  residents were not included in the initial inoculations. The combined total of the two vaccines received to date provide enough doses to treat every single LTC resident in the province—yet our most vulnerable citizens here in the North are apparently being regulated to the second phase which, according to the province, will perhaps be months away yet. LTC residents in hot spots will be at the head of the line, but evidence is plain that a single incidence of the pandemic getting into a LTC facility on the Island could prove catastrophic.  

Our LTC facilities have been down this road repeatedly, with each and every flu season providing more practical experience, with the result that getting all of their residents vaccinated within a day has become the norm.

Our most vulnerable citizens should be at the head of the line when it comes to receiving the vaccine.

In the meantime, while news of the vaccines is a very welcome start to 2021, we must not let down our guard. It is going to take some time before the danger has abated. If we look back to the polio epidemic of the early-to-mid twentieth century, it was still decades before parents could breathe easily when their children left the house to play. While those respective vaccines were introduced in the mid-1950s it was not until later in the 1960s that virus was wrestled into the mat—and the early 1990s before the Americas were finally declared free of that scourge. This particular pandemic will likely not persist as long.

So keep calm, wash your hands, keep your distance and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, provided enough of us are prepared to roll up our sleeves when our turn comes.