Front-line doctor describes COVID-19 vaccination effort in Toronto long-term care homes

TORONTO — Residents and staff members at the City of Toronto’s 10 long-term care homes will be vaccinated against COVID-19 every day this week and into the weekend, a city spokesperson tells CTV News Toronto.

Dr. Brian Hodges is the Chief Medical Officer of University Health Network (UHN) and has been on the front lines of the vaccine rollout in several of those facilities.

He told CTV News Toronto that he’s been making his way through homes in the downtown core since Dec. 31, vaccinating one home in the morning, and then another in the afternoon.

“We’re going very, very well,” Hodges said. ”It will be within days that we will finish our homes. UHN has 15 long-term care home partners. And we’re on track to finish those this week,” he added.

Hodges showed CTV News Toronto the clinic as staff waved to the camera. Over the loud speaker, a man could be heard congratulating everyone at the home who received the shot.

Hodges says members from Women’s College Hospital and Mount Sinai have been shadowing his team to vaccinate more of the vulnerable soon.

“It’s actually incredibly moving work. There have been some dark times in health-care and long-term care and it’s a moment of joy and excitement for us, and the gratitude is palpable,” he said.

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Slow rollout of vaccines in long-term care homes criticized 

There has been growing criticism over the number of vaccines available and how many are going into the arms of the most vulnerable. The province said Tuesday it can’t tally just yet when all residents will be vaccinated.

The province said it received 53,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in December, which is easier to transport compared to the ultra-cold storage requirements of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, of which the Ontario government is expecting another 56,000 doses.

The province said Tuesday 3,000 Moderna doses went to 24 homes and another 4,000 is planned to be used in 26 homes by Wednesday. 

It also said 26,000 health-care workers in long-term care and retirement homes received Pfizer-BioNTech shots, along with 1,000 residents.

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Some advocates say with more than one-third of homes in Ontario dealing with an outbreak, vaccination numbers are not high enough.

“We know that if it’s not ramped up rapidly, more people are going to die, everyday,” said CanAge CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts, a national advocacy group for seniors.

“Many long term care homes have no clear understanding when the vaccine would come into their home, how it would be deployed. Family members who are trying to better understand if their loved ones are safe, can’t get the information.”

The City of Toronto said last week, 600 residents at Castleview Wychwood Towers, Bendale Acres and Fudger house received the vaccine and inoculations are continuing this week. 

A city spokesperson said some staff members at the city operated homes are receiving their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine this week.

Ret. General Rick Hillier, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine task force, said Tuesday that it will take about 55,000 doses of vaccine to inoculate long-term care residents and staff in the province’s COVID-19 hot spots (Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex) by Jan. 21  

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