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First doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Hamilton could come in ‘small numbers’ next week

Although the first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for Ontario touched down at Hamilton’s airport on a plane Monday morning, it’s still at least a week before any of it will be dispensed in the city, according to officials.

Hamilton’s emergency operations centre director says the first of Hamilton’s COVID-19 vaccines could be in the city as early as next week, assuming all goes well with a pilot study going on in Ottawa and Toronto.

Paul Johnson went on to tell city councillors in a Zoom call on Wednesday that the number of shots the city will get is expected to be “small.”

Read more: Premier Doug Ford on hand for 1st shipment of COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario

“This is really for health-care workers, because one of the realities is, that this vaccine is not going to be distributed to sites to do things in the community,” Johnson said.

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“It’s going to be in one location or a particular location and people will have to come for the vaccine.”

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Despite the impending arrival, the city’s medical officer of health said a rollout for the general public is “many months out.”

“We’re really looking at vaccination of the general population starting at the end of 2021, so in the last quarter of 2021,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said.

Richardson told councillors prioritization is essential. She expects front-line health-care workers caring for COVID-19 patients and those at highest risk for severe disease as well as death from the virus to be at the top of the list.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger told councillors that ultimately the city has no control over the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines as the matter is strictly in “provincial hands.”

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“So just to be clear about that, this is their purview, not ours,” said Eisenberger.

When the rollout does happen for the general public, Richardson says the program should look like any other vaccination measure.

Read more: Canada’s 1st COVID-19 vaccinations administered, kicking off massive campaign

“As it goes forward through the program by the end of the year, the ideal is to be into a vaccination program that looks very much the same as any other vaccination program where you would have private sector participation in terms of pharmacies, where you would have family doctors participating, and long-term care homes themselves.”

The Ontario government received close to 6,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on Monday and is in the process of giving it to 2,500 health-care workers at a hospital in Toronto and another in Ottawa.

An additional 90,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive later this month and are to be provided to 14 hospitals in COVID-19 hot spots.

The province expects to receive between 30,000 and 85,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine by the new year, pending its approval by Health Canada.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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