Ontario Premier Doug Ford has refused the offer of aid from the Canadian Red Cross, shortly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced it was sending it to help the COVID-19 mobile vaccination teams.
“While we appreciate the Prime Minister’s offer, unless it is matched with an increase in supply, we do not need the Red Cross at this time for administration of vaccines in Ontario,” a statement from the premier’s office said on Friday.
“We do not have a capacity issue, we have a supply issue.”
As Ontario reports record-high COVID cases, Trudeau said the federal government will provide more relief to the province, including deploying mobile health units in Toronto and Hamilton.
Health-care equipment including oxygen units and drugs to treat COVID will also be sent, the Prime Minister said.
The refusal comes on the heels of the news that the Ford government has reached out to all provinces and territories for extra help, saying Ontario is drastically short on nurses.
As of Friday afternoon, Alberta is the only province to respond and said it cannot spare any nurses as it is dealing with a COVID-19 surge, as well.
Trudeau also announced Friday a contract with Pfizer for an additional eight million doses of their vaccine, hours after Canada said its incoming supply from Moderna would be slashed in half through the rest of April.
Procurement Minister Anita Anand says the first four million of the new eight million Pfizer doses will arrive in May, with two million more coming in June and July, respectively. She said Pfizer is also moving another 400,000 doses from the third quarter into June.
Canada’s initial shipment of approximately 300,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will also arrive during the week of April 27, Anand said, to be delivered to the provinces at the beginning of May.
The increased Pfizer doses help offset another production delay from Moderna. Anand said earlier Friday that Moderna will ship 650,000 doses of its vaccine by the end of the month, instead of the expected 1.2 million.
Anand said in a statement that Moderna advised Canada the limited supply is due to a slower than anticipated ramp up of production capacity.
The company also told Canada that one to two million doses of the 12.3 million scheduled for delivery in the second quarter may be delayed until the third quarter.
“We are disappointed, and while we understand the challenges facing suppliers in the current global market for vaccines, our government will continue to press Moderna to fulfil its commitments,” Anand said in a statement.
Moderna said in a statement there has been a “shortfall” in estimated doses from the European supply chain, and that it will be “making adjustments” to expected delivery quantities in a number of countries, including Canada.
Earlier Friday, the Canadian Medical Association called for “extraordinary” measures, including sharing provincial health-care resources and dropping the per-capita approach to vaccine distribution, to address the COVID-19 crisis unfolding in several provinces.
The CMA said it wants the federal government to consider re-prioritizing its vaccine distribution strategy to focus on urgent areas instead of distributing to provinces on a per-capita basis.
The organization also said provinces should be sharing its health-care resources with areas that are especially hard-hit, including Ontario and Quebec where ICU capacity is overwhelmed.
Dr. Ann Collins, president of the CMA, said Canada is at a “critical juncture” of the pandemic, adding a “truly national approach” is needed to combat rising COVID activity in parts of the country.
The CMA said further restrictions “must also be considered” in provinces experiencing rapid rates of COVID-19 transmission.
Ontario was expected to announce new measures later Friday.
—With files from Global News’ Jessica Patton