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Hamilton preparing for arrival of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine within ‘next couple of weeks’

Hamilton is preparing to receive the Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine sometime in the next couple of weeks, which means long-term care residents can begin being vaccinated. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Hamilton is preparing for the arrival of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, which is expected to provide some much-needed protection for the city’s long-term care residents.

About 2,200 front-line workers have received their first shot since Hamilton’s vaccination clinic began distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech shot to long-term care and health-care workers on Dec. 23, 2020.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer of health, says roughly 250 people are being vaccinated each day at the local clinic, and the goal is to ramp that up to 500 per day this week and 1,000 per day by next week.

She says that number doesn’t include the Moderna vaccine, which is expected to arrive in Hamilton within the next couple of weeks.

“Because this is a vaccine that can get moved to other sites, whereas the Pfizer one, right now, cannot. That will allow an expansion of the vaccine program to those who actually live in long-term care homes and retirement homes.”

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Read more: COVID-19 vaccinations underway for staff at Hamilton seniors homes hit hard by outbreaks

Planning is underway for the distribution of the Moderna vaccine and which homes in the city will get the shot first, and Richardson said those plans will be partially shaped by how many doses Hamilton will initially receive.

“We’ll be looking at which are the highest-risk homes that we have. So, for example, we have some homes that still have four-bed rooms, where you have four people in one room, whereas newer facilities have just single-bed rooms and that sort of thing.”

As of Monday afternoon, there are COVID-19 outbreaks at 20 institutions in Hamilton.

The one at Grace Villa remains the largest, with 228 total cases and 38 deaths related to the coronavirus.

Shalom Village is the second-largest in the city and has infected a total of 170 people.

Public health is reporting that 15 residents have died from COVID-19 at Shalom Village, but those numbers trail behind the most recent information from the home itself, which has said that 17 residents have died.

The facility had previously reported that a total of 19 residents had died amid the outbreak, but according to a spokesperson for Shalom Village, that figure has been reassessed.

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“The discrepancy is the result of different reporting parameters between agencies,” said Laurie Pringle, director of communications and engagement for Shalom Village.

“Previously, we were instructed to classify all deaths as COVID deaths. Now we are reviewing that decision and it has been decided not to do so.”

Read more: Coronavirus — Hamilton reports 94 new COVID-19 cases, 2 deaths

An outbreak was also declared at Macassa Lodge, a city-operated facility on the mountain, on Jan. 1, with three staff members and two residents testing positive for the virus.

Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton’s emergency operations centre, said they’ve responded by putting a stop to visitor access at the facility, with visitors only allowed under “very extreme circumstances.”

“For those with loved ones at Macassa Lodge, these are trying times and I know that you’re anxious,” Johnson said during an update on Monday.

“We have implemented every control measure that we can take in order to ensure that the virus goes no further in our long-term care facility.”

Premier Doug Ford has responded to criticism of Ontario’s vaccine rollout by saying the province would be “ramping it up” in the near future.

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“You’re going to see a significant difference over the next few weeks,” Ford said on Monday after a Toronto health-care worker became the first person in the province to receive both doses of the Pfizer shot.

That was followed up by an announcement on Tuesday, when the province said it plans to vaccinate all long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers in COVID-19 hotspots by Jan. 21.

That includes Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and Windsor-Essex, but Hamilton was not specifically mentioned.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, the province has distributed 50,030 doses of the vaccine and 117 people have received both shots required for full vaccination.

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