“Bridge Too Far”: Holder refuses to divert vaccines from London to COVID-19 hotspots

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London Mayor Ed Holder vows to roll back possible reductions in the city’s COVID-19 vaccine shipments as the province considers allocating half of its doses to hot-spot areas.

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Jennifer Bieman A picture shows vials with the Pfizer / BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

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London Mayor Ed Holder vows to roll back possible reductions in the city’s COVID-19 vaccine shipments as the province considers allocating half of its doses to hot-spot areas.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday the province is weighing a recommendation from its COVID-19 scientific advisory table that distributing shots based on transmission rate would reduce the number of hospitalized patients and deaths.

Elliott said the province anticipates a sharp surge in Pfizer BioNTech doses in the coming weeks and expects to make an announcement on the vaccination strategy “shortly”.

“We don’t want to take vaccines away from any group if we go to the 50 percent (allotment for hot spots),” she said. “But by next week, should we decide to move on, we would have a much wider range of vaccines to get into those hot-spot areas.”

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Mayor Ed Holder said he doesn't want London to become a COVID-19 hotspot if the province cuts supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to the Middlesex-London Health Unit so hotspots in other parts of the province can get more. Mayor Ed Holder said he doesn’t want London to become a COVID-19 hotspot if the province cuts supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to the Middlesex-London Health Unit so hotspots in other parts of the province can get more.

The prospect of discounts doesn’t go well with Holder, who doesn’t want London – whose healthcare workers already care for dozens of critically ill patients referred from overburdened hospitals in the Toronto area – to miss out.

“Allocating up to 50 percent of the province’s vaccine supply to hot-spot neighborhoods is just a bridge too far for me and I cannot support it,” he said.

“I understand the challenges some parts of the greater Toronto area and elsewhere are facing, but hot spots can change in a very short time. . . . I absolutely don’t want London to risk becoming one by redirecting even more local vaccines to other locations. “

The Middlesex-London Health Unit received approximately 9,360 Pfizer BioNTech doses this week, a reduction from the typical weekly allocation of approximately 12,800 doses, Health Officer Chris Mackie said Monday.

The reduction is part of the province’s strategy to increase the number of vaccines for hot spots, primarily in Toronto and the Peel region, by 25 percent.

The health unit expects to see approximately 12,870 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrive next week and the following week, followed by an increase after that, Mackie said. About 8,000 cans of Moderna are expected to arrive on May 3rd.

To date, around 21,400 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot have been allocated to pharmacies in the London area, Mackie said. A further 5,700 doses were forwarded to selected general practitioners.

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With the number of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines expected to hit Canada and Ontario by mid-May, Mackie says there is a “slim chance” that the weekly allocation in the London area will actually increase, even if the province skims some of them Top for hot spots.

Middlesex-London medical health officer Chris Mackie said an expected increase in vaccine supply in the province would likely offset the reduction if the local health unit's stake was reduced to allow more vaccine to be sent to hotspots.  (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press) Middlesex-London medical health officer Chris Mackie said an expected increase in vaccine supply in the province would likely offset the reduction if the local health unit’s stake was reduced to allow more vaccine to be sent to hotspots. (Derek Ruttan / The London Free Press)

“We don’t expect any of those predicted numbers to go down,” he said, pointing to the expected increase in the total doses sent to Ontario. “We really don’t see any future risk of falling doses in our community, at least in the foreseeable projections of five weeks.”

The London area health unit expects to open its fourth mass vaccination clinic at Earl Nicholas Arena next month in anticipation of a large amount of doses expected in June, Mackie said Monday.

After the health unit added health conditions such as obesity and pregnancy to its vaccination eligibility list last week, it expects more groups can be booked this week, Mackie said.

While the original plan was to question people with additional chronic conditions next, At the provincial level, it is discussed whether the availability of appointments for mass vaccination clinics can be opened for people aged 55 and over. Mackie said but no final decisions were made.

“We hope to hear more, but we can announce an eligibility extension tomorrow or Wednesday,” Mackie said on Monday.

“We have the capacity and we will vaccinate whoever we are addressed to.”

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100 new COVID-19 cases were added in the London area on Monday and 172 new cases over the weekend. A new COVID-19 death, a man in his eighties who did not live in a retirement or nursing home, has been reported.

The London Health Sciences Center announced on Monday that 97 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital, 43 of them in intensive care. Of the 97 patients, 33 were referred from outside the London area, Carol Young-Ritchie, executive vice president and chief clinical officer, said Monday.

Young-Ritchie says the LHSC has not yet had to use the three beds in the intensive care unit at the Children’s Hospital, which is intended to accommodate adults who are non-COVID-able and in need of intensive care.

The hospital expects to admit two to six more patients from overworked hospitals to the GTA every day this week, she said.

– with files from the Canadian press

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