September 22, 2020
Today, Premier Doug Ford and Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, released the first pillar of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19. The first pillar involves implementing the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19
Ontario’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19, outlines an approach to a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic that focuses on six key areas:
- Maintaining strong public health measures, including continued expansion of testing, and case and contact management;
- Identifying, managing and preventing COVID-19 outbreaks;
- Accelerating efforts to reduce health service backlogs;
- Preparing for surges in COVID-19 cases;
- Recruiting, retaining, training and supporting health care workers, while continuing to engage families and caregivers; and
- Implementing the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history.
Details of the plan will be released over the next several days, given its size and complexity. According to Minister Elliott, the government has already made “considerable progress” on implementing many of the plan’s pillars.
Pillar #1 – Flu Immunization Campaign to Help Maintain Health System Capacity
The first pillar of Keeping Ontarians Safe to be announced involves a $70 million investment to produce the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history.
To date, the Ontario government has ordered over 5.1 million flu vaccine doses. This includes 1.3 million higher vaccine doses for seniors, which will be available in participating pharmacies this year for the first time ever. Early distribution of the flu vaccine will be prioritized for vulnerable populations in long-term care homes, hospitals, and retirement homes.
The government will also launch a public education campaign to encourage Ontarians to get the flu shot. Minister Elliott explained that several thousand people are hospitalized each year due to flu and associated complications. By encouraging Ontarians to get the flu shot, the government hopes to reduce the number of flu-related visits to hospitals and doctor’s offices, in order to maintain capacity in the health system for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases.
Starting next week, the flu shot is expected to be available for vulnerable populations, and in the coming weeks at primary care provider offices, public health units, and participating pharmacies.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Spike in Case Numbers
When asked about Dr. Yaffe’s comments yesterday that health officials are considering whether other regional or sector-specific measures should be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, Minister Elliott responded that the government has already taken several steps since the most recent spike was first observed, including implementing a four-week pause on further loosening public health restrictions and reducing private gathering limits province-wide. She added that the COVID-19 Command Table is monitoring case numbers daily and, while the Table is not imminently planning on taking additional steps, it is considering several other actions which may need to be taken in the future.
Minister Elliott reiterated the continued importance of following public health guidelines, including physical distancing, mask usage, and self-isolating if you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Premier Ford added that it is “critical” that rapid methods of testing for the virus are introduced, and called on Health Canada to expedite the approval of these tests.