December 1, 2020, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, and Chair of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, General Rick Hillier, provided an update on COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Ontario after touring the warehouse of McKesson, a pharmaceutical distribution company. The update highlighted the importance of partnership with experts from the pharmaceutical, health care, and logistics sectors when planning for safe and efficient distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario. Minister Elliott also reiterated that Ontario will be prepared to begin receiving vaccines by December 31, 2020.
Following this afternoon’s update, Minister Elliott responded to questions from media.
Earlier today, the Ontario government announced an investment of $550,000 from the Ontario Together Fund to support local manufacturers in producing masks. Viva Healthcare Packaging will receive $450,000 and will produce up to 22.5 million disposable surgical masks per month by March 31, 2021. Ckdpack Packaging will receive $100,000 in order to produce 300,000 surgical masks and 30,000 surgical gowns per month.
Questions from Media
COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution
In response to questions about how Ontario will prioritize the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, Minister Elliott said that, in general, the most vulnerable residents and frontline health care providers will be prioritized. The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force will determine more specific details of prioritization, and a bio-ethicist will sit on the task force to help inform these decisions.
Minister Elliott also confirmed that the government plans for the COVID-19 vaccine to be voluntary, rather than mandatory.
In response to questions about when hospital capacity is expected to reach a point where non-emergency surgeries and procedures must be cancelled, Minister Elliott responded that some hospitals in hotspots, including Scarborough General Hospital, have already passed this threshold. She added, however, that a major component of the government’s fall preparedness plan is to enable hospitals to continue performing non-emergency surgeries, and that 3100 hospital beds have been added to provincial capacity since March to support this objective and manage COVID-19 related surges.
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
Minister Elliott was also asked about capacity within the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, which the local medical officer of health said was “strained and at risk of collapsing.” In response, Minister Elliott said that, in recognition of the growth in cases within the region, the government recently moved Windsor-Essex to the Red-Control level of the COVID-19 response framework. She added that the province stands ready to assist the local medical officer of health with necessary supplies or contact management.