Premier Ford says the head of Ontario’s vaccine task force will be leaving the job when his contract expires on March 31st. Ford says retired general Rick Hillier indicated he would be taking on the role only as a short-term appointment to help set up Ontario’s vaccine distribution network. He says he tried but failed to persuade Hillier to continue on in the role. The province has faced criticism over the slow vaccine rollout, but Ford has blamed that on the shipment of supplies provided by the federal government.
Here is yesterday’s news conference from Premier Ford:
Trudeau Stands By Health Canada on the AstraZeneca Vaccine Decision:
Prime Minister Trudeau says he is confident in Health Canada’s guarantee that all COVID-19 vaccines it has approved in Canada are safe. Several European countries have hit the pause button on administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, after reports of blood clots in some recipients. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says the rate of blood clots in people who received AstraZeneca is no different than the rate in the general population. He is worried the mixed messaging on the AstraZeneca shot may be poisoning the well of public opinion. Nearly a dozen countries including Germany, France and Italy have all temporarily suspended their use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Across the country, over 3 million vaccines have been administered – and with more doses arriving and more vaccination sites opening, that number will keep going up. Today in Montreal, I visited one of those sites to thank the people involved in these efforts to keep us safe. pic.twitter.com/Y39fzDy2qq
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 15, 2021
New Advice on the AstraZeneca Vaccine Coming Today:
Canada’s national vaccine expert panel is expected to update its recommendations on whether to expand use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine even as more countries in Europe stop using the drug due to safety concerns. Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization initially recommended that people 65 and over be prioritized for vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, because more evidence from trials was available regarding their efficacy on seniors compared with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. But last week, the chair of the committee told The Canadian Press newer evidence on how the AstraZeneca vaccine worked for seniors in real-world use was being analyzed, and an updated statement could be expected soon.
The Provincial Vaccine Portal Had A Few Small Issues Yesterday:
Premier Ford is promising to immediately iron out what he calls wrinkles with Ontario’s online and telephone booking system for COVID-19 vaccinations. Users in several areas reported seeing error messages after filling out online booking forms yesterday, and those calling to book appointment have reported long wait times and other problems. Ford told reporters that tens of thousands of people had successfully used the province’s website and call centre to book an appointment. He said he was grateful the online system hadn’t crashed and vowed problems would be fixed quickly. Those aged 80 and up are currently eligible to book appointments.
If you are over-80 or helping a friend or relative book an appointment, visit https://t.co/H1aICohICX or call 1-888-999-6488.
For Ontarians under-80, your turn to get vaccinated is on the horizon. I promise you, we're going to get to you a vaccine as quickly as possible. pic.twitter.com/91KVzk2hzQ
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) March 16, 2021
Facebook Trying to Fight Misinformation Again:
Facebook announced yesterday a slew of features to tackle misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Posts on both Facebook and Instagram relating to coronavirus vaccines will now be given a label stating the jabs are thoroughly tested for safety before being approved. The alerts will be automatically attached to posts and, if clicked on, take users through to verified, legitimate sources of information, such as from the NHS or the World Health Organization.
US Officials Want the Border Opened:
Some US officials are expressing optimism that the Canada-US border could be reopened by early July — and possibly earlier — as more Americans are vaccinated against COVID-19. But the prime minister says it’s not time for that discussion. Justin Trudeau says people on both sides of the border will have to keep waiting patiently for the COVID-19 pandemic to abate.
Toronto Opening Three Mass Vaccination Clinics:
Toronto says it will have three more mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics open by April 5th. That will bring the total number of operating mass immunization sites to six. Mayor John Tory says two of the clinics will begin COVID-19 vaccinations on March 29th, while one will open on April 5th. Three clinics are already scheduled to open for mass vaccinations on Wednesday.
Here is yesterday’s Toronto update:
Peel Claims Their Staff are Being Harassed:
Officials in Peel Region are raising concerns over what they call a rise in harassment towards public service employees. The region’s chief administrative officer says staff have increasingly faced harassment — including racial slurs — in person and over the phone. In a statement, Janice Baker urges residents not to take their pandemic frustrations out on the employees who are working to keep the community safe. She says regional staff have been working long hours for more than a year and are also feeling anxious due to the global crisis.
Calls to Make Lockdown Cities Get Vaccine Priority:
The mayor of Sarnia is asking for any health regions moved into lockdown by the province to be given priority access to COVID-19 vaccines. Mike Bradley made the request as Sarnia-Lambton moved into the grey lockdown stage of the province’s pandemic framework yesterday. Bradley says in a letter to Premier Doug Ford that priority access to vaccines would give people in the region optimism and alleviate stress as they move into lockdown. Lambton Public Health says the lockdown is a declaration of emergency after weekly case numbers rose sharply among residents under the age of 50.
Here is yesterday’s Provincial update:
Bylaw in Ottawa Ready for St Patrick’s Day Complaints:
Bylaw officers will be ramping up their enforcement in Ottawa this week in light of St. Patrick’s Day. The city is in the orange zone of the province’s colour-coded pandemic system, which means social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Officials say they’ll be responding to complaints about breaches to those rules and taking action as necessary. The move comes as Ottawa is seeing a rise in COVID-19 infections.
Yesterday the Province announced 1,268 new cases of COVID-19, based on nearly 34,000 tests completed. Data from the Ministry of Health says there were 9 new deaths and 98 new hospitalizations. 1,114 more cases were marked as resolved.
Waterloo Region / WDG Numbers:
Yesterday Public Health of Waterloo Region announced 26 new COVID-19 cases and two new deaths. Both victims were in their 80’s. The local death toll is now at 239. There are 27 people hospitalized. Eight are in intensive care. The number of active cases dropped by sixteen to 311. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health announced their weekend numbers yesterday but there was an issue with their dashboard and nobody can see it.
Contains files from The Canadian Press
Photo Credit: CPAC via YouTube screenshot