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Niagara Health’s Medical Advisory Committee makes urgent call for ‘fair share of vaccines’ | CBC News

Niagara’s Medical Advisory Committee has written to community leaders to request their “urgent help” to advocate for the region’s “fair share of vaccines.”

The committee is comprised of the chief of staff and the chiefs of services in Niagara, and the Medical Staff Association executives that represent the views and interests of all credentialed physicians at Niagara Health.

It notes that over the past month, COVID spread in Niagara has become increasingly serious.

“Today, we are caring for 62 COVID-positive patients in hospital, with 12 patients in intensive care,” they wrote in the letter. 

“During the first week of the New Year, we cared for as many as 93 patients in a single day at the hospital. 

Sadly, 90 patients being treated for COVID have died, with 50 of those deaths taking place since the onset of the second wave in the fall of 2020,” it continued.

First shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines

While noting that Niagara has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, the committee said the virus is heavily impacting the region. 

“Our teams are burned out; people are worried for their loved ones and they need hope. Hope that the vaccine offers,” the committee said. 

“While we are pleased to receive the initial shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, the reality is that it’s not enough. 

It’s not enough to vaccinate our vulnerable population and not enough to guarantee continuous operation of your hospital system. This is compounded by the inexplicable diversion of the Moderna vaccine, which would have gone to the most vulnerable population that we care for in Niagara,” it said.

Premier Ford said, ‘With Phase One of our plan well underway, we’re getting ready to expand our vaccine rollout and get more needles into arms as soon as the supply is available.’  (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Province expands COVID-19 immunization program

On Wednesday the provincial government said it is preparing to immunize up to 8.5 million people before the end of Phase Two of its vaccine implementation plan, which aims to receive, store and administer COVID-19 vaccines to Ontarians as soon as supply is available.

Details were provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Minister of Health, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force.   

“With Phase One of our plan well underway, we’re getting ready to expand our vaccine rollout and get more needles into arms as soon as the supply is available,” Ford said. 

“We now have a well-oiled machine, led by Gen. Hillier, and we are making tremendous progress. We know this second phase will be an even larger logistical undertaking than the first. That’s why we’re ramping up our capacity on the ground to ensure these vaccines are administered quickly, beginning with the people who need them most.”

But the Medical Advisory Committee said it has been particularly disheartening in Niagara to see that they are not being treated equitably with other areas in the province. 

“There are 32 long-term care homes in Niagara and not one health-care worker, not one resident received the vaccine prior to today,” they said.

“In contrast, Windsor has 19 long-term care homes and has already vaccinated all of them. The same is true for York Region’s 28 homes. This frustration is multiplied by regular reports of individuals, who are not eligible under the government’s own criteria, being vaccinated against COVID prior to those who desperately need it in Niagara. 

“Shockingly, some people in other jurisdictions have received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine before a single dose made its way into our community. Our older adults and health-care workers deserve better.”

Virus taking its toll on hospital staff and physicians

The committee said the virus is taking its toll on staff and physicians at the hospital, adding that more than 220 teammates have tested positive for COVID and nearly 200 others are having to isolate for potential exposure. 

“While we appreciate that the public sometimes refers to healthcare workers as heroes, we are not superhuman,” committee members said. 

“With the spread of infection, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain services in the hospital and continue to save lives. 

“We are not far from our system being overwhelmed. The hospital system is currently dealing with eight units on outbreak, including one of our COVID units, one of our ICU’s and two of our emergency departments,” they said.

The committee called on the community and leaders to support their urgent call for action by joining the committee in requiring the Ontario government allocate more Pfizer vaccines to Niagara and restore the allocation of the Moderna vaccine that was unfairly taken away. 

“We can administer vaccines as quickly as they are provided. Volunteers are lining up to support this initiative. All we need are vaccines,” the committee said.

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