Ottawa's mayor and the board of health's chair are urging the province to let the city's pharmacists and primary-care clinics provide COVID-19 vaccinations, to help deal with the challenges of reaching people in rural areas.
It would be impossible to "create equal access to the vaccine" without the help of those two groups, Mayor Jim Watson and Keith Egli say in a letter sent to Health Minister Christine Elliott on Wednesday.
At a news conference, Watson said: "Our city is 2,600 square kilometres, and, you know, we can fit the cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, all within our boundaries.
"We need more distribution points."
Watson said Ottawa is the second largest city in the province and has unique geographic challenges.
Ottawa has nine vaccination centres that are either open or set to open within the next three days, but most are closer to the city centre, with the farthest west in Kanata and the farthest east in Orléans.
But Watson said as more people become eligible for the vaccine, there will be a need to send them to sites outside the larger ones.
'Rumblings' pharmacy program coming
Ottawa was not part of the pharmacy vaccine pilot project that rolled out in certain areas of the province earlier this month to provide AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
Watson said he understands why COVID hotspots like Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area would benefit from the program. However, he questioned why the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington Health Unit was chosen when it has significantly fewer cases per capita than Ottawa.
He also pointed out that people have been travelling from Ottawa, a red zone, to Kingston, a yellow zone, to get vaccinated.
Watson said he has heard "rumblings" the province will announce three Ottawa pharmacies would provide vaccines, adding: "We're hopeful.
"I guess three is better than nothing, but the reality is we need probably dozens of pharmacies in different parts of the city, particularly in the hot zones where there's a higher proportion of COVID-19. We need to help these people much more quickly."
Read the letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.