At 3 p.m. ET, the province’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, is set to provide a briefing on the COVID-19 situation. You can watch that live in this story.
The head of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine task force is calling on Health Canada to “look into” the possibility of providing Moderna’s vaccine as a single dose, rather than two, in a bid to quickly expand capacity as cases of the illness surge in the province.
Retired general Rick Hillier said Tuesday that the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive in Ontario within 24 hours. It will be distributed to four sites in hotspots throughout southern Ontario before they are sent to long-term care and retirement facilities.
“I know it’s late to ask for a Christmas gift. But if I could ask for one, I would ask Health Canada to re-look at the Moderna vaccine and see if we can make that a one-shot vaccine to give us that greater capacity to go out and vaccinate people even faster than we plan on doing it now,” Hillier told reporters.
As it stands currently, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses administered about 28 days apart. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only other COVID-19 vaccine currently approved for use by Health Canada, also involves two doses, taken some three weeks apart.
Hillier said that if the Moderna vaccine were to be made a single dose, “that would allow us to get literally hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps even several million” vaccinated more efficiently.
Hillier’s request comes as Ontario this morning reported a record-high 2,553 new cases of COVID-19 and the deaths of 78 people with the illness over the last two days.
During a briefing last week, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada said that there is uncertainty about how long the immunity developed from a single dose of the Moderna vaccine would last, given the trials were completed with two separate shots.
“So we would recommend that the second dose be given,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, adding that provinces would also need to factor in the reliability of the supply chain when deciding how doses should be administered in the coming months.
As of this morning, Ontario has used more than 14,000 of the 90,000 doses included in the initial shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The pace is considerably behind those of other provinces.
Some health experts have also criticized the province for scaling back its vaccination program over the holidays.
Hillier said today that it was a “mistake” to do so, and that doses will be administered seven days a week moving forward.
“We can’t do it any faster,” he said. “We want to make sure that we get it right, and not at the expense of time, but we want to make sure we get it right.”
Positivity rate climbs to 9.7%
Meanwhile, the record 2,553 cases reported this morning include 895 in Toronto, 496 in Peel Region, 147 in Windsor-Essex, 144 in Hamilton and 142 in York Region.
Other public health units that saw double-digit increases were:
- Niagara: 115.
- Durham: 108.
- Middlesex-London: 86.
- Halton: 78.
- Ottawa: 65.
- Waterloo: 57.
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 57.
- Simcoe Muskoka: 34.
- Southwestern: 25.
- Chatham-Kent: 19.
- Eastern Ontario: 16.
- Lambton: 16.
- Brant County: 11.
- Haldimand-Norfolk: 10.
[Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit, because local units report figures at different times.]
Combined, the new cases bring the seven-day average to 2,236.
The province said this morning it conducted 34,112 tests in the last 24 hours, while Ontario’s network of labs reported a positivity rate of 9.7 per cent.