KHSC, KFL&A Public Health mitigate uncertainty in vaccine supply

·4 min read

Kingston Health Sciences Centre has confirmed that, as of Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, the first 1,900 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to arrive in the region have been administered. As per provincial guidelines, KHSC gave the vaccines to individuals in the first priority group in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes.

Now, KHSC President and CEO Dr. David Pichora is asking people to be patient.

“With limited vaccine supply, we must focus initially on vaccinating the most vulnerable, those in long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes, where the risk of infection, serious illness and spreading the virus are much higher,” he said.

“We are aware that due to work to expand its European manufacturing facility, production of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVD-19 vaccine will be reduced for a few weeks and will impact deliveries to Canada,” he added.

Canada first learned last week that shipments of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine would be reduced and delayed in the weeks ahead due to supply chain upgrades.

In a statement issued issued Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, Dr Pichora noted: “We are working with our partners to adjust our plans accordingly.”

Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, explained that Kingston has arranged to share doses of the Moderna vaccine from neighbouring health units, which will help keep the pace of vaccination.

“Our sister health units, because we are working as a team, we knew they were going to get Moderna in the first week of February,” Dr. Moore said on Thursday, Dec. 21, 2021. “We shared Pfizer [with them], they’ve shared their Moderna, and we’re working cohesively as a team trying to ensure that those who are at highest risk will receive the vaccine.”

“I have to thank our sister health units,” he added. “That partnership is wonderful.”

Dr. Moore said the goal now is to be “flexible and adaptive,” and to try to provide the first single dose to every high-risk resident in a long-term care facility.

“Then we’ll work back and we’ll immunize workers, and then we’ll immunize designated caregivers. I think that makes sense from an ethical standpoint given what we’ve seen with the morbidity and hospitalization rates,” he said.

Both Pfizer and Moderna require two doses, between three and four weeks apart, to be fully effective. Dr. Moore said the vaccine distribution team is not withholding any doses for the second round of inoculations.

“We need to get first doses in,” he said. He added that he is hoping for a redistribution of Pfizer vaccine from the provincial government, to ensure the second doses can be administered within the required time frame.

“At one o’clock [Thursday], the province heard how much they’re getting from the federal government,” he explained. “Then they’re going to review that amount, and I hope there’s going to be a redistribution if there’s any leftover Pfizer vaccine, anywhere in the province.”

“We know our primary target is our long-term care facilities. If there were some doses that were going to go to workers elsewhere, like acute care workers, or other workers, that could be redistributed.”

He said KFL&A Public Health should get confirmation on any additional amounts resulting from that redistribution in the coming days.

“We’re continuing to work for April. April is when we’ve been told the supply chain will increase, and we may have enough doses in April for one-third of our adult population. That will allow us to catch up on the Phase 1 priorities of First Nations, Inuit, Metis in our community and other healthcare workers.”

In the meantime, Dr. Pichora said the second shipment of 1,900 doses will be distributed equally among the three public health agencies in the region, and administered by mobile vaccination teams.

“We are confident that everyone who chooses to be vaccinated for COVID-19 will be able to receive the vaccine when there is sufficient supply of this and other vaccines in the coming months, and as vaccination and distribution are expanded beyond hospital sites,” he said. “We need to be patient.”

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com