Thousands of COVID-19 vaccine doses offered by the Ontario government for Amazon workers following an outbreak at the Brampton facility in March were shut down by Peel Region’s top doctor, the local public health unit confirmed on Thursday.
A spokesperson for Peel Public Health said, in a statement, that it was a “difficult” decision to not accept the vaccine doses as widespread transmission had already occurred in the plant and only the most vulnerable populations and health-care workers were still being vaccinated at that time.
The local health unit, which is headed by Dr. Lawrence Loh, said the closure of the facility would have still been mandated along with the two-week cooling-off period regardless of whether the workers could have been vaccinated or not. They said a person could have been incubating and vaccine protection doesn’t kick in for two to three weeks.
The spokesperson also said at the time, under Ontario’s ethical framework, due to already limited and slow supply the doses would have to target the most at-risk populations.
When the outbreak occurred, Peel Public Health said the province was vaccinating those in long-term care homes, seniors aged 80 and older, front-line health care workers and first responders. Essential workers were scheduled for the next phase, Phase 2.
“We had only just started vaccinating our community 80-plus who were most at risk of death and dying,” Peel Public Health said.
The Amazon outbreak at the Brampton facility on Heritage Road saw more than 600 cases linked to the workplace that employs approximately 5,000 workers. The closure was ordered by Loh on March 13.
“We also noted that our planned allocation did not meet the provincial average per capita and in reviewing the offer, requested that the province instead correct the shortfall in our allocation,” the statement continued. “This was secured in the order of tens of thousands of doses and utilized to vaccinate our most vulnerable.
“Had the 5,000 doses been offered without restrictions on their use, we absolutely would have accepted them and given them to our most vulnerable in accordance with the province’s prioritization,” the local health unit said.