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COVID-19 vaccines ‘at risk of expiring’ given to family of non-frontline staff at Vaughan LTC home

Click to play video: 'Vaughan long-term care home administered COVID-19 vaccines to family of non-frontline staff' Vaughan long-term care home administered COVID-19 vaccines to family of non-frontline staff
WATCH ABOVE: A long-term care home in Vaughan has allegedly administered COVID-19 vaccine doses to the family and friends of board members and staff from a not-for-profit Vaughan, Ont., long-term care home. As Erica Vella reports, a letter outlining the allegations has been sent to the Ontario Ministry of Health – Feb 8, 2021

A union representing some health-care workers says a registered nurse reported being directed to administer COVID-19 vaccine doses to the family and friends of board members and staff from a not-for-profit Vaughan, Ont., long-term care home.

However, representatives for the Villa Leonardo Gambin (VLG) long-term care home claim the doses were given to family members of non-frontline staff because the vaccines were “at risk of expiring.”

Charlene Nero, a LiUNA Local 3000 spokesperson, told Global News in a statement on Monday that 21 shots in total were administered on three separate occasions at the Islington Avenue and Steeles Avenue West-area facility.

Nero said the nurse reported she administered seven doses of the vaccine to the non-frontline recipients during the week of Jan. 10.

Read more: Toronto nurses upset over COVID-19 vaccine access, allege frontline medical staff not being prioritized

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It was alleged another three or four doses were administered at some time during that period, but the union said another employee provided those shots.

“It has been reported by our members that these individuals were allowed to enter Villa Leonardo Gambin despite the fact that it is against the current rules regarding access to LTC homes and that this home was in the midst of a major outbreak at the time,” Nero said.

She went on to say the union local, which represents more than 8,000 health-care and industrial workers in Ontario, filed grievances, alleging the vaccinations were a “breach of our members’ health and safety.”

When contacted by Global News about the matter, a Villa Leonardo Gambin spokesperson issued a statement on behalf of the board of directors saying on three of six vaccine clinic days in mid-January, staff were confronted with “unused” Moderna vaccine doses “at risk of expiring.”

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“In an effort to prevent these vaccines from going to waste, we offered them to non-frontline staff who work or volunteer for the residence and specific family members of staff and volunteer board members,” the statement said.

Read more: Alberta health officials address COVID-19 vaccine waste ‘misinformation’ as 843 new cases identified

“We believed that getting the vaccine into a person’s arm was more beneficial than having it go to waste.

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“We understand the need to have available vaccines reach priority groups and are committed to ensuring there is a process to redistribute any unused vaccines to those who are most at risk.”

The union said a letter was sent to the Ontario Ministry of Health and public health officials detailing the allegations of management and board of directors’ family members being vaccinated at the nursing home.

“When she asked whether these individuals fell into one of the categories of people eligible to receive the vaccine, she was told to indicate that they are essential caregivers. She did so,” the letter said.

“[She] was also invited to have her son and husband attend the clinic and receive the vaccine. She declined that invitation.

Read more: Coronavirus: Ontario won’t make Feb. 5 goal of vaccinating all LTC, high-risk retirement residents

“Furthermore, she reported that a physician at VLG removed some doses of the vaccine for what appeared to be his personal use.”

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In a statement to Global News on Monday, the ministry of health said it reported the incident to police.

“Upon learning of alleged unauthorized removal of vaccine doses the Ministry immediately took action and ensured the issue was brought to the attention of the York Regional Police Service,” the statement read.

“The ministry is also looking into the allegation of individuals not in the identified priority populations being vaccinated,” the statement continued.

“If these allegations are proven to be correct, this is completely unacceptable and the ministry continues to work with its health system partners to ensure the guidance and information provided is clearly understood by all partners regarding the prioritization of populations for COVID-19 vaccines.”

The long-term care home statement said facility staff take “any allegation that vaccine doses were removed from the residence very seriously and we are taking all necessary steps to look into this matter.”

News of the vaccinations comes weeks after the Ontario government laid out a COVID-19 vaccination plan that prioritizes health-care workers, long-term care and retirement residents, and First Nations in the first phase of the plan.

It also comes after the province has seen a reduction in vaccine doses being received due to delays by Pfizer and Moderna.

Pfizer and Moderna, the only approved vaccines in Canada, require two shots each.

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On Monday, the province recorded 386,171 doses administered, and 106,163 people fully vaccinated with two doses. Ontario has a population of about 14.5 million people.

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