In what is perhaps the best bit of good news we might receive in these waning days of 2020, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health has announced that they will be getting their first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer next week. The vaccine will arrive on Monday January 4, and be ready for distribution the same day with a full rollout scheduled for Tuesday.
“This is a major moment for our region, I know all of us have been anxiously waiting for this news and I am pleased to be able to share it with you,” said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement. “Receiving our first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine marks the beginning of the final phase of this pandemic, as we move toward providing a vaccine for everyone who wants it.”
Don’t roll up your sleeve just yet because long-term care and retirement home staff plus essential caregivers will be the first to receive the vaccine. Due to the sensitive nature of the Pfizer vaccine, people will have to Public Health in-person to receive it, which makes Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health the first public health unit in Ontario to store and administer the vaccine from their office.
“This is wonderful news, but this is the time for patience,” Mercer said. “It will take several months before the vaccine is available to all of us who want it.
“In the meantime, we must all continue to follow the public health measures we know will keep everyone safe: gathering with only those you live with, wearing a face covering, maintaining physical distancing of six feet and practicing good hand hygiene,” she added. “We want to make sure everyone gets safely to the end of this pandemic together.”
On Wednesday, the Government of Ontario released their ethical framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, a three-phase plan that governs the roll out of vaccines as supply becomes increasingly available over the next several months. Most people will not be able to get a vaccine until Phase 3 of the plan with the first two phases being reserved for healthcare workers, people with chronic health conditions, residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes, and First Nations people.
“The COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force developed this framework to ensure that its feedback and recommendations are consistently guided by fundamentally important ethical values like equity, fairness and transparency,” said Dr. Maxwell Smith, a bioethicist and assistant professor at Western University who is part of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force that came up with the ethical framework.
“We are continuing to ensure that diverse perspectives are captured in our feedback and recommendations, so that all Ontarians who want to get vaccinated against this deadly virus are accounted for,” added Smith. “Vaccines are the most effective way to prevent infectious diseases and are our best defense to help us get back to our normal lives.”
There may be more options for vaccines in the near future as the United Kingdom became the first country to approved the distribution of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca on Wednesday. Unlike its counterparts from Pfizer and Moderna, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, which makes it easier to move and store, but the U.K. has approved it for a two-shot course for all patients just like the other two vaccines.
All this positive vaccine news comes as a welcome bit of good news here in Guelph where Public Heath said Wednesday there were 44 new cases of the virus to bring the total number of active cases up to 321; 181 in Guelph, 37 in Wellington County, 74 in Dufferin County, and 29 that are unassigned. There have also been two new fatalities in our region since last week to bring the total number of deaths in our area from COVID-19 up to 48.
There are six long-term care homes in Guelph that are still reporting outbreaks of COVID-19 in their facilities, but the outbreak is over at Guelph General Hospital. In a media release on Wednesday, the Hospital reported that a total of five patients and six staff members had tested positive for the virus in the fourth floor east section of the building, but after 14 days of isolation and caution, the outbreak has been declared over.
“This is good news in this challenging time. Full credit goes to the expertise and teamwork of hundreds of staff to bring this outbreak to a close,” said Melissa Skinner, the Hospital’s VP Patient Services and Chief Nursing Executive. “By no means can we let down our guard. Here, it’s only by us continuing to do everything we can to maintain best practices in infection control along with the combined efforts of the community at large that we will keep our patients and our staff safe and protected.”