Ford wouldn’t commit to increasing North’s vaccine supply when asked

·4 min read

Premier Doug Ford said he would like to do more to help Sudbury with more vaccinations, but he cannot promise what he doesn't have. He said Canada’s federal government needs to provide more vaccines to the provinces.

Ford was responding to a question Monday from Sudbury.com about whether more COVID-19 vaccines could be directed to the Sudbury district to help offset the rising case count of those who are being infected.

Ford was commenting during a brief news conference in Scarborough where his government pledged additional funding to help Ontario hospitals deal with the additional costs of dealing with the pandemic, which broke out just over a year ago.

Sudbury.com told Ford that Sudbury continues to be in the Grey Lockdown zones, that COVID-19 cases are increasing and that there are three outbreaks at Health Sciences North. Ford was asked if additional vaccines might be sent to Sudbury to mitigate the problem.

"I hate to use these analogies, but where the fire is that's where we have to put the hoses on, right," Ford remarked, adding that Sudbury is not that different than other parts of Ontario right now.

"If there's outbreaks in certain areas, I think it's important that we reallocate all resources to areas that we see outbreaks and that's no different than Toronto. Certain parts of Toronto are really in hotspots so we focus in those areas," said the Premier.

"We really want to ramp it up in any region that we see a real big outbreak there. And not just that; we also have to do a lot of testing as well in those areas," said Ford.

Earlier in the news conference, the premier remarked that the infrastructure to give vaccines has been well-thought-out and well-planned. He said all that work can be for nought if the product doesn't come through.

“We hear good news that we're going to get some Pfizer today, which is great. We're going to get another 90,000 Moderna, which is great. But then again, once we see consistency. In the vaccination centres, I hear it all over the province they don't have confidence in when we're getting the vaccines, how much we're getting, so they can properly plan," said Ford.

He said nothing is worse than setting up several mass vaccination events and then getting word that a shipment of vaccines did not come through as promised. He said workers then have to cancel and rebook tens of thousands of appointments.

Ford said he wished he could pump up the program to 150,000 doses a day "and not worry about the supply coming in." He said no matter how well the Ontario vaccination teams plan ahead, the pressure is on the federal government to deliver.

"Ontario's capacity to deliver vaccines continues to increase. The reality is we don't have anywhere near enough doses. We need the federal government to ensure that we get a steady and reliable supply of vaccines so we can continue to maximize the numbers of needles in arms every single day. By working together we will beat this virus," he said.

Ford also commented on the idea of rejuvenating Operation Remote Immunity. That was the program that took place in February, where Ornge flight crews and medical teams spread out across Northern Ontario to deliver vaccines to more than 30 remote and isolated First Nations communities. Ford was asked by Sudbury.com if it would be worthwhile to rejuvenate the plan and create "vaccine flying squads" to visit more remote towns that are usually far off the beaten path.

"I think that's a pretty good idea," said the Premier. "It all depends on the amount of people that are up there and to get up there and try to vaccinate as many people as possible."

Ford also praised the Ornge team that carried out the first effort in February.

The people that are absolute champions is Ornge. They went in there. They made it seamless," he said.

"What I can assure the people of the Far North; we aren't going to forget about you. We're going to make sure we have vaccines for you as soon as possible. But I really like that idea. So we'll have to map it out. I'm sure they've already mapped it out to be very frank with you," said Ford.

Len Gillis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sudbury.com