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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.