(Credit to Lucas Powers of CBC News)
A long-term care worker became the first person in Ontario to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, kicking off an immunization campaign expected to last for the better part of a year.
Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place in Toronto, sat down for her first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shortly before 12 p.m. ET.
The shot was administered at a site in the University Health Network, a system of hospitals and health-care facilities throughout the city. The exact location is being withheld for security reasons, the province says.
Quidangen was one of five front-line health professionals slated to get a dose of the vaccine, which arrived by plane in Hamilton from the United States last night. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires two doses several weeks apart.
“This is a watershed moment — the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford said in a statement. “The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain on our guard.”
The Ontario government described Quidangen as the first Canadian to be vaccinated, but a resident at a long-term care home in Quebec City actually received her shot several minutes earlier.
Ford also specifically acknowledged Quidangen, who has been a personal support worker since 1988 and often did double-shifts during the pandemic to care for residents.
“Anita has spent years rolling up her sleeves to protect our province, and today, she didn’t hesitate to find a new way to do so,” Ford said.
The other health-care workers to receive the first dose of vaccine today were:
• Cecile Lasco, personal support worker.
• Derek Thompson, personal support worker.
• Lucky Aguila, registered practical nurse.
• Colette Cameron, registered nurse.
Ford was on hand at Hamilton International Airport on Sunday to greet the UPS plane carrying the vaccine when it landed, marking a major milestone in the massive immunization campaign about to begin in earnest.
“Today’s milestone officially launches the first phase of our three-phase vaccine implementation plan to keep Ontarians safe and marks the beginning of the long journey to return life back to normal,” he said today.
Some 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are going to the UHN, while another 3,000 will go to The Ottawa Hospital.
An additional 85,000 or so doses of the Pfizer-BioNTechvaccine are expected to be provided to 14 hospital sites in Ontario regions currently in the red and lockdown levels of the province’s COVID-19 restrictions system by the end of the year.
Health-care workers, long-term care residents and their caregivers will be among the first to receive the vaccine. Adults in Indigenous communities, residents of retirement homes, and recipients of chronic home health-care will also be priority groups, the Ministry of Health has said.
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The province expects to receive 2.4 million doses — allowing it to vaccinate 1.2 million people — during the first three months of 2021, with vaccines becoming more broadly available to the general public in April. It will take another six to nine months to immunize all Ontarians who opt to get the vaccine.
“I encourage everyone to be patient. This is the biggest immunization program in a century, and our vaccine supply will arrive in stages,” Ford said.
Cecile Lasco, a personal support worker with decades of experience, was the second person in Ontario to be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTEch COVID-19 vaccine. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)
Meanwhile, this morning, Ontario reported another 1,940 cases of COVID-19 and 23 more deaths from the illness.
The new cases include 544 in Toronto, 390 in Peel Region, 191 in York Region, 134 in Hamilton and 114 in Windsor-Essex.