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Calls to vaccinate frontline workers in factories, distribution centres increasing in Ontario

Click to play video: 'Increasing calls to vaccinate workers in factories, distribution centres in Ontario' Increasing calls to vaccinate workers in factories, distribution centres in Ontario
WATCH: There are growing calls to vaccinate workers in factories and distribution centres in Ontario. The GTA has seen a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities, most recently at an Amazon centre in Brampton. Katherine Ward reports. – Mar 14, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, outbreaks in factories and warehouses have been a common occurrence. There are growing calls for these front-line workers to get the COVID-19 vaccine as supply increases. This is especially true in Ontario, where certain regions have been dealing with ongoing challenges since the fall.

“This is certainly a place where prioritizing vaccination would have a huge role to play in changing the trajectory and really bringing down the spread of the disease,” said infectious diseases physician Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti.

“It’s important for us to really put resources and to protect them. This is one unfortunate area that’s invisible but has been impacted very hard by COVID, much more than the rest of the population.”

Click to play video: 'Amazon to appeal temporary closure of Brampton location due to COVID-19 outbreak' Amazon to appeal temporary closure of Brampton location due to COVID-19 outbreak
Amazon to appeal temporary closure of Brampton location due to COVID-19 outbreak – Mar 12, 2021

On Friday, Amazon was ordered by public health to shut down a facility in Brampton, after 240 positive cases were reported in recent weeks.  Roughly 5,000 workers have been instructed to quarantine and self-isolate until March 27.

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Read more: Brampton Amazon facility must close, workers need to self-isolate amid outbreak: Peel Public health

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown says this is a perfect example of how vaccines could break the cycle of transmission.

“We’ve had outbreaks disproportionately among our essential workers in Peel Region and Toronto,” Brown said. “If we want to protect the rest of the province, we must protect our essential workers.”

When asked if the province would prioritize this group, Rick Hillier, who heads up Ontario’s vaccination effort, says the rollout remains unchanged.

“The plan for them is that they will be included in either mass vaccination clinics or else in pharmacy channels as they roll through or in some of the public health units,” the retired general said at a press conference Sunday.

Read more: Coronavirus inspections in Peel Region to focus on warehouses, distribution centres

However, Hillier did suggest there could be opportunities for companies to help with vaccine distribution at some point in the future.

“Perhaps many private companies would volunteer to set up a mass vaccination clinic in their own factories using their own occupational health personnel to do the vaccine, and look after their workers when their turn comes,” Hillier said.

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As for Amazon, the company plans to appeal the shutdown order. In a statement, spokesperson David Bauer said the company had just completed a recent round of testing with less than a 1 per cent positivity rate. In their view, the data does not support the closure.

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