Ontario orders 5.1 million flu shots as federal public health officials warn the country is at a crossroads in the epidemic
The plan to tackle an expected second wave of COVID-19 cases in Ontario will begin with flu shots.
Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province’s “comprehensive fall preparedness plan” contains six pillars that they will explain in greater detail in the coming days.
“We’ve never been in a more serious position than we are right now and over the next few weeks,” Ford said during a news conference at Queen’s Park.
With the province’s daily case count surging toward 500 on Tuesday, Ford said the government will roll out the largest flu immunization campaign in the country’s history.
Ontario has ordered 5.1 million doses of the flu vaccine at a cost of $70 million and is working on ordering more, he said. The goal is to reduce capacity in the hospital system by offering flu shots via doctor’s offices and pharmacies.
Ford said 1.3 million high-dose flu shots will be available for seniors via pharmacies. The government is also prioritizing immunizing seniors and people with pre-existing conditions in long-term care homes and hospitals.
The first flu vaccine shipments will arrive before the end of the month, Elliott said.
“We know that a second wave is coming. We know that it will be more complicated than the first wave,” Ford said. “We know that it will be more challenging on the system. What we don’t know is how bad it will be – how hard we will get hit.”
Ford said the province is working to clear a backlog of surgeries in the health-care system and will have more details on that part of the plan in the next few days.
Last year, there were 5,719 flu-related hospitalizations in Ontario and 280 people died.
Elliott broadly outlined six points to Ontario’s fall plan:
Ontario reported 478 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday – the highest daily increase since May 2.
Meanwhile in Ottawa, Canada’s top public health officials said on Tuesday the country is at a “crossroads” in the fight against COVID-19.
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam warned the virus could spread uncontrollably and surpass the spring peak if public health officials and the public do not work together to curb spread.
Tam presented updated COVID-19 modelling projections that showed the national daily case count “has been increasing at an accelerated rate” since the last federal projection modelling update in mid-August.
She added that public health measures and individual protective measures must be strengthened to prevent a large spike in the weeks ahead.
“With minimal controls, the virus is capable of surging into a very sharp and intense peak because most Canadians don’t have immunity to the virus,” Tam said. “This surge could overwhelm our health system capacity and significantly impact social and economic systems as well.
“The only way to achieve strong control of COVID-19 and prevent the virus from surging into an uncontrollable growth trajectory is for public health authorities and the public to work together.”
Tam also said the age range of new cases has dropped to people ages 20-39. Earlier in the pandemic, COVID-19 disproportionately affected people over age 80.
The government’s short-term projections show there could be up to 155,795 cases and up to 9,300 deaths by October 2.
To date, there have been 145,415 cases reported in Canada, including 9,228 deaths.
The cumulative number of people that have recovered has decreased to 86 per cent due to higher proportion of active cases and increasing daily case counts.
Public health officials in the city of Ottawa and the province of Quebec said this week that the second wave is underway in their respective jurisdictions.
However, federal public health officials said they can’t declare the country is the grips of a second wave as infection rates vary across the country.
“A surgical approach, at this stage in the pandemic, is an appropriate one,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said during the news conference, adding that public health measures should be strengthened “based on where the disease spread is happening.”