TORONTO: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday (Apr 16) Pfizer is doubling the amount of vaccines to Canada over the next month and he announced the Red Cross is ready to be deployed in Ontario to help with vaccinations amid a record wave of coronavirus infections fueled by variants.
Trudeau said the pandemic is particularly bad in Canada’s largest city of Toronto, where record-breaking numbers are filling intensive care hospital beds.
“Ontario has reached out for more support. I can tell you today that we are standing by to deploy the Canadian Red Cross to help with their mobile vaccination teams. This is about getting doses to people where the situation is most serious,” Trudeau said.
A spokesperson for Ontario's premier denied it had asked for help.
“While we appreciate the prime minister’s offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for the administration of vaccines in Ontario. We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue," said Ivana Yelich, a spokesperson for Ontario's premier.
Ontario, however, is pleading with other provinces to send nurses and other health workers. In a letter to all provinces and territories, the Ontario government noted it is short thousands of nurses. The deputy minister of health, Helen Angus, also asked whether her counterparts have any resources to spare. Her letter says the pandemic has strained hospital capacity, particularly intensive care.
Angus estimated Ontario will be short 4,145 nurses in the hospital sector alone over the next four months.
"We are projecting a need for this critical support for four months following the anticipated peak of the third wave," Angus wrote.
Trudeau said this is likely the final and toughest stretch of the pandemic, but he announced Canada will receive 4 million additional Pfizer vaccine doses in May, another 2 million in June, and 2 million more in July.
With those additions, the the country of 38 million people will get 24 million Pfizer doses through June. Moderna, meanwhile, said it will ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine to Canada by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million.
Canada is getting its first Johnson & Johnson shipment later this month, 300,000 doses.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in total Canada will receive between 48 and 50 million doses by the end of June.
Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada but a delay in reimposing stronger restrictions in Ontario led to a third wave.
Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, the Ontario government’s science advisory co-chair, called for a six seek stay-at-home order and begged citizens to notice hospitals are “bursting at the seams.” Ontario has averaged almost 5,000 new infections a day in recent days.
“We’re setting up field hospitals and we’re separating critical ill patients from their families by helicoptering them across the province for care. Children’s hospitals are now admitting adults as patients and this has never happened in Ontario before. It has never happened in Canada before,” he said.
His team predicts more than 30,000 new infections a day by the end of next month unless strict measures are taken. Ontario's premier is expected to announce further restrictions later Friday. Retail remains open to curbside pickup.