Ontario adds 1.4M doses of flu vaccine as demand expected to surge – Toronto Star

Health Minister Christine Elliott makes an announcement for the funding of a new hospital in Windsor on Oct. 18, 2021.

By Rob FergusonQueen’s Park Bureau

Tue., Oct. 19, 20213 min. read

Article was updated 4 hrs ago

Ontario is getting an extra 1.4-million doses of flu vaccines this year, preparing for high demand in the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are back at their workplaces and socializing.

Free shots will be available for the general population starting next month, with jabs underway since September for nursing-home residents, hospital patients, seniors, pregnant women and others most at risk for complications, Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday.

The province has ordered 7.6-million doses of flu vaccine, and Elliott urged people to get vaccinated through their doctor, nurse practitioner, pharmacy or public health unit clinic as supplies become available. Pharmacies will get 40 per cent of the of the total, an increase from last year.

“Be patient and call ahead,” she advised during a news conference at a Toronto pharmacy, noting shipments come in stages.

Officials said getting the flu shot is crucial this year because many symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of the flu and it may be hard to tell the difference.

“As we head into the fall and begin gathering indoors more often with family and friends, it is even more important to get your flu shot, in addition to following public health measures, to protect yourself and those around you,” chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore said in a statement.

Elliott urged anyone who has not been given a COVID-19 shot to get one — something that can be done in conjunction with the flu shot following approval from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization.

“If you haven’t had your COVID shot either, please come in and get both,” she said.

Flu cases were “historically low” last season because of lockdowns and people working or learning from home, with fewer than 25 lab-confirmed cases compared with almost 13,000 the previous season, Elliott said.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath pressed Elliott for details on a plan for children aged five to 11 to get COVID-19 vaccinations now that Pfizer has applied to Health Canada for approval to administer its vaccine to that age group.

“British Columbia is already preregistering their children to get the vaccines. They’re making sure that their system is ready and parents have some certainty already as to what to expect. But here we are, still with nada in terms of information for parents,” Horwath said in the legislature’s daily question period.

Elliott said the government is going over plans from each of the province’s 34 health units.

“We will be ready and we will have information out to parents in advance,” she told Horwath, hinting there will be after-hours and weekend clinics at schools so “the entire family can go.”

She evaded a question from Horwath on making COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for school attendance, as is the case with a host of other shots, including measles.

Independent MPP Rick Nicholls, who was kicked out of Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative caucus for refusing to be vaccinated, pushed the government to end vaccination mandates that could cause some workers to lose their jobs unless they get the COVID-19 jab.

“I’ve been receiving phone calls, emails and letters from hundreds of distraught Ontarians who do not want to receive the experimental drugs — or vaccines, as some would call them,” he said.

Labour Minister Monte McNaughton urged employees and employers to work together, saying 83 per cent of eligible Ontarians over age 12 have received two COVID-19 shots, including a similarly high percentage in the riding of Chatham-Kent-Leamington that Nicholls represents.

“We know because of the science that is the best way to defeat COVID-19 once and for all,” McNaughton said.

A number of hospitals and other employers are making vaccinations mandatory. All nursing-home workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15 or risk losing their jobs.


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