Ottawa ‘ready’ to administer COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives: Head of Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine task force

OTTAWA — With 30,000 doses of the Prizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in Canada on Monday, the head of Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force says the city is ready to begin administering the vaccine.

However, neither Anthony Di Monte nor Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches would say if Ottawa would receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine when it arrives next week.

“This is going to be one of the largest operations that we’re taking on here in some time,” said Di Monte, Ottawa’s head of emergency services.

“Logistically, we’ve mobilized across the city.”

Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine for use in this country on Wednesday, and the first doses are expected to arrive next week. Sources told CTV News Ottawa Tuesday night that the province’s hot zones, like Toronto and Peel Region, would be the priority on the upcoming delivery.

During a media availability following Wednesday’s Council meeting, CTV News Ottawa asked the city if it would be ready to administer the vaccine next week.

“Yes, the city is ready if we do receive a vaccine next week to be able to start with our partners putting needles in arms, as we’ve been saying. Our hospital partners and our public health partners have been working with us, so we are ready,” said Di Monte Wednesday evening.

“This is driven by the province, they are deciding which zones will get what and how much. What we’re doing is we’re just being prepared to receive whatever they have and the priority of who should receiving that will be followed.”

Di Monte says the Ontario government will decide where the vaccine will be distributed first.

“There’s been a lot of discussions and this is obviously still a moving target as provincial officials are looking at what the federal government will be providing to Ontario,” said Di Monte.

“The health team is working provincially to decide where they should distribute that, so we haven’t been given definitive answers exactly right now, but we expect that in the next few days. We’ll be ready if Ottawa is deemed an area where we’ll be receiving vaccines.”

During the council meeting, City Manager Steve Kanellakos said hundreds of municipal employees will be deployed to help administer the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks and months.

Di Monte said it will be all hands on deck to help administer the vaccine to one million residents.

“We’ve completely mobilized. We’re looking at all sorts of tasks from how we’re going to move vaccine around. We’re going to be following the orders of the province with regards to who are the priority groups to receive it,” said Di Monte.

“We have to mobilize clinicians to be able to give this; so you have to be a health care professional to be able to vaccine people, so that’s going to require hundreds of people to do that; clerical staff, our I.T. team is mobilized as well, so it’s a significant operation. We’ll probably be pulling in hundreds of city staff, different levels, to support this operation. So, it’s a significant task, we’re not only up to it we’ve got a lot of work already done.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada said Wednesday the plan is to begin vaccinating the general population in April 2021, and have all Canadians immunized by the end of next year.

Di Monte says a lot of discussions are still ongoing with the federal and provincial governments, and the city will follow all advice.

“As the vaccine begins arriving, the priority groups will be identified and we’ve got different models ready,” said Di Monte.

“And when we get to what looks like probably later next year and the general population, even our teams are mobilized with regards to all our city facilities, we’ll have multiple facilities across the city ready so people can present themselves there to get vaccinated. So it’s quite an undertaking, the team is up for it!”

Di Monte adds the federal and Ontario governments will provide the super cool freezers to maintain the Pfizer vaccine when it arrives.

Ottawa Public Health is working with the City of Ottawa’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force to prepare for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

“This is going to be a process that takes many months,” said Dr. Etches.

Dr. Etches said Ottawa Public Health will work with the city on communication strategies and other steps to administer the vaccine.

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