Grace Villa COVID survivor on vaccination list; daughter says it’s ‘inhumane’ Hamilton wasn’t prioritized

·3 min read

A Hamilton woman is hopeful that her 96-year-old mother might be one of Hamilton’s first residents in long-term care to get a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week.

Luisa Cipriani says she received a call from Grace Villa on Friday afternoon asking if she’d like to put her mother, a resident at the east Mountain home and a COVID-19 survivor, on the list to receive a vaccine.

MPP Donna Skelly confirmed to The Spectator’s Katrina Clarke on Friday that Hamilton is expected to receive “a small initial shipment” of doses of the Moderna vaccine “early” next week. The news comes as politicians, advocacy groups, workers’ unions, and family members criticized the province for leaving out Hamilton as the only grey-lockdown region from being part of Ford’s accelerated vaccine distribution plan, which his government promised would vaccinate all long-term-care residents and staff in the other hot spots by Jan. 21.

But on Friday, Ford said the province was “quickly running out” of the vaccines, and asking the federal government to send more. Meanwhile in Hamilton, 3,000 vaccines have been sitting in the freezer since arriving in the city in late December.

Cipriani says her mother was one of the first residents to test positive from COVID-19 once the outbreak was declared on Nov. 25. Her case was eventually “resolved,” but she continues to live in isolation while the home is in outbreak.

Grace Villa’s outbreak — Hamilton’s biggest and deadliest by far — had a total of 232 cases and claimed the lives of 42 of the home’s 156 residents, as of Jan. 7 at 3 p.m. There are 143 resident, 87 staff and two visitor cases.

Cipriani called it “absolutely inhumane” that Hamilton was not prioritized for the vaccine’s rollout.

“Honestly, they all should’ve been ready for the second wave,” Cipriani said, referring to the federal and provincial governments.

Grace Villa did not respond to questions about whether the home was receiving vaccines, or when and how many, instead directing questions to public health.

Public health spokesperson Jacqueline Durlov told The Spectator on Friday that public health didn’t have a “definite date” for when the Moderna vaccine would arrive.

“Once it arrives, we will work to get it out as soon as possible,” Durlov said in an email. “Vaccinating the residents of long-term care as soon as possible is definitely a priority, and in the next few days we will be sharing more information about this group.”

Shalom Village, however, confirmed on Friday that they are expecting vaccines in the near future.

“Public health has shared with us just today, that we are going to be vaccinating all our Shalom residents in the next week to 10 days due to the early shipment of Moderna vaccine to Hamilton,” said spokesperson Laurie Pringle in an email.

“In preparation of this process, we will be making calls to all Shalom residents, or the power of attorney on their file, as early as this weekend, to arrange for consent,” added CEO Ken Callaghan in an update on Shalom’s website. “All residents will receive the vaccine, unless they are acutely ill at the time of vaccination, whereby vaccination will occur when they are stable.”

The news came the same day Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and other NDP MPPs wrote an open letter to Premier Doug Ford.

“We ask you reconsider this choice to delay life-saving intervention in Hamilton,” read the letter. “We urge you to recall the Ontario legislature and allow all Ontarians to have their representatives be engaged in decision-making.”

Cipriani hopes that the vaccine will get to her mom soon enough.

“She’s the only person I have,” she said. “I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.”

-With files from Katrina Clarke

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator