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COVID-19: Ottawa mayor asks for ‘fair share’ of Ontario’s vaccine doses

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says the city has not received its "fair share" of COVID-19 vaccines from the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Ottawa’s mayor says the city is not receiving its “fair share” of COVID-19 vaccine doses from the province.

Jim Watson said at a press conference Friday afternoon that Ottawa, which started offering coronavirus vaccinations to those aged 75 and older on Monday, could be moving in-step with Toronto in inoculating residents aged 70-plus if it had more doses flowing into the city.

Ottawa has received 5.7 per cent of the total vaccine doses distributed by the province to date, according to Watson’s math, despite having roughly seven per cent of Ontario’s population.

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He acknowledged that areas in the GTA have been prioritized for vaccination as COVID-19 hotspots, but said Ottawa has pockets with similarly high rates of transmission as well.

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“It’s clear by the statistics that Ottawa is not receiving its fair share of the doses,” he said.

Watson said he has spoken with Nepean MPP Lisa MacLeod about finding a solution to the vaccine shortfall.

Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier, the outgoing head of Ontario’s vaccine task force, said Friday that Ottawa actually received a higher allocation of doses at the start of the distribution campaign in December and January as the city acted as a test case to prove out the provincial supply chain. Since then, Hillier said numbers have come down.

Of the 133,440 vaccine doses Ottawa has received to date, the city has administered 110,116 doses.

Premier Doug Ford pledged Friday that Ottawa would receive an equitable, per-capita share of the vaccine doses the province receives from the federal government.

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Earlier in the week, Watson and Keith Egli, chair of the Ottawa Board of Health, sent a letter to Ontario’s minister of health asking for the province to urgently expand its pilot distributing vaccines via pharmacies to the nation’s capital.

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Hillier said Friday that the “vast majority” of the province’s initial supply of AstraZeneca vaccines — the doses that have been administered through Ontario pharmacies — have been used up. He said Ontario has a network of roughly 700 pharmacies that are ready to start administering doses “as soon as AstraZeneca arrives.”

Ford expressed his frustration with the federal government’s vaccine supply chain again on Friday, calling it a “joke.”

“Everyone is frustrated. How can you set up a production system … when you don’t know when your product is coming? It’s ridiculous,” he said of the vaccine rollout.

Ottawa Public Health reported 139 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the second straight day of triple-digit increases in the local coronavirus case count.

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