A spokesperson for Premier Doug Ford says he has begun contacting consulates in a bid to get more COVID-19 vaccines for Ontario.
Ivana Yelich said Sunday that Ford began reaching out to international allies after news of cuts to upcoming Moderna shipments, and as the province awaits a possible recommendation on lowering the age limit for the AstraZeneca shot.
“Ontario has the capacity to vaccinate more people, but we are lacking the supply to do it,” Yelich said in a statement.
“Vaccines are our only way out of this pandemic and the premier will exhaust every avenue he has in order to get more needles into arms of Ontarians sooner.”
Procuring vaccines is normally the responsibility of the federal government.
Ford has repeatedly said that Ontario has the capacity to administer more vaccines than it is currently receiving from the feds, and in late March, lashed out at the federal government’s procurement process calling it “a joke.”
The province has administered a total of 3,837,881 vaccine doses as of 8 p.m. Saturday, marking an increase of 86,565 over one day. Over the past several days, Ontario had been administering more than 100,000 doses each day.
So far, 345,310 people in the province are considered to be fully vaccinated.
According to the federal government, Ontario has received 4,852,885 doses thus far.
Earlier this week, the federal government said that while Canada was due to receive 1.2 million Moderna doses this month, that had been cut down to 650,000. At the same time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be receiving millions additional Pfizer shots, beginning in May.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is also discussing the current recommendation that AstraZeneca only be given to those 55 and older due to blood clot risks.
Health Canada has approved the shot for everyone 18+.
In a press conference Sunday afternoon where federal officials announced that they would be offering to send personnel and rapid tests to Ontario to help battle the third wave, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu was asked about Ford’s decision to call other countries in a bid to get more vaccines.
Hajdu didn’t comment on that directly, but said that Canada will be receiving 48 million additional doses in the second quarter.
Global News also reached out to Procurement Canada for comment.
A spokesperson referred to Procurement Minister Anita Anand’s comments on Friday in which she also highlighted that Canada is expecting to receive tens of millions of vaccines in the coming months.
“Despite the temporary and short-term fluctuations in deliveries from our supplies, Canada’s vaccination campaign overall is gaining ground,” she said.
“We are currently ranked fourth among G20 countries for doses administered per capita, and second in the G20 when it comes to the average number of doses administered daily per capita.”
Hajdu also said that since Health Canada has licenced AstraZeneca for people 18+, Ontario could change the age limit at any time if provincial officials decided to do so.
Hajdu added that NACI will also have updated guidance on AstraZeneca use “in the very near future.”
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to send aid from the Canadian Red Cross to Ontario to help with administering vaccines., but the Ford government declined.
“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.”
Some have called for vaccines to be reallocated to Ontario from areas of the country not facing as high rates of COVID-19.
In Sunday’s press conference, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said vaccines are allocated on a per-capita basis after a unanimous request from all premiers last year.
Ontario is currently in the midst of a third wave of COVID-19, with cases and hospitalizations rising to record levels in recent days.
The provincial government has faced sharp criticism in recent days for new restrictions implemented in response to the third wave, which some have called delayed, misguided, and overreaching.
— With files from Hannah Jackson, Rachael D’Amore and The Canadian Press