Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg says a pilot COVID-19 vaccination clinic that just opened today at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre will have to pause vaccinations on Friday because of a shortage of vaccine supply in the province.
The proof-of-concept clinic opened Monday and is meant to help develop a blueprint for how shots should be administered in non-medical settings as soon as this spring. So far, COVID-19 vaccines have only been administered at long-term care homes and at 19 hospital sites across Ontario.
Pegg said last week the facility would be “scale-able” and capable of increasing output with little notice, with an initial target of 250 doses per day.
But at the city’s media briefing on Monday, he said the province has now asked the city to pause vaccinations at the new clinic by the end of Friday.
“We were all disappointed to learn that the delivery of Pfizer vaccine to Canada is expected to be delayed as a result of manufacturing delays in Europe. As a result, we have now been advised by the province that we will only be able to operate this proof of concept clinic for an initial five days due to the lack of availability of COVID-19 vaccine,” Pegg said.
He said anyone with an appointment at the clinic from Jan. 23 on should expect that their appointment will be cancelled.
Peg said those who receive their first dose at the clinic this week will still be able to get their second dose within the proper timeframe.
The clinic will resume vaccinations once it gets word from the province that it may do so. In the meantime, Pegg said the city is continuing to plan for a quick rollout of the vaccine when more doses become available.
“We are continuing to explore all options to accelerate our ability to administer vaccines to Toronto residents once larger quantities of vaccine are available,” he said. “This will include planning for extended hours of clinic operations, expanded clinic capacity targets and implementing innovative delivery methods that meet the needs of our city, including mobile vaccine clinics, priority neighborhood response, hospital-led clinic operations and widespread public access via pharmacies and primary care physicians.”
The site had been expected to run for at least six weeks in order to gather data about how best to host vaccination drives in larger settings.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory toured the site at MTCC’s North Building just on Sunday.
While the clinic was meant to use the Moderna vaccine, the Pfizer delays mean that some of that supply will now be redistributed to other parts of the province.
Those receiving the vaccine at the clinic this week are workers who support those experiencing homelessness.
In a statement, the city said a “potential issue” was identified Sunday whereby some of those not included in the prioritization framework for the clinic may have been able to book an appointment.
“Since the registration issue was discovered, the city has been working to review registrations and has added additional checks and verifications at the clinic’s in-person check-in as well as signage on site,” the statement read. “Should the city determine there are people registered who do not qualify for vaccine at this time, the city will contact those people directly, reminding them that the proof-of-concept clinic’s initial clientele are frontline healthcare workers working in the city’s shelter system and in public health only.”
The lessons health officials garner from the clinic will be put into a “playbook” that will be distributed to the rest of the province. Pegg said the city will work with the province to determine whether they have enough information to produce the playbook after five days, or whether they will need to wait to gather more information after the clinic reopens.
The clinic is expected to eventually vaccinate 2,500 people a day when it is fully operational with a steady supply of vaccine doses.