© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Protesters outside a long-term care home in Toronto
By Allison Martell and Moira Warburton TORONTO (Reuters) – Ontario has vaccinated only a small proportion of nursing home and long-term care residents, the group most vulnerable to COVID-19, while administering tens of thousands of doses to health workers outside the home, new provincial data released Wednesday showed. In nursing homes, vaccination is a matter of life and death. But less than a quarter of Ontario’s at least 138,000 nursing home and long-term care residents have received a dose, according to data from industry associations. Many doses, about 77,000, have been destined for health workers outside the home. Nearly 40% of the province’s long-term care homes are battling the outbreaks, and 198 residents and two staff members have died since January 1. According to worst-case projections, another 1,520 residents could die by February 14, experts who advised the province on Tuesday said. Canada began vaccinations on December 13 and federal guidance focused on residents and long-term care staff, other frontline health care workers and some remote indigenous communities, to maximize the lives saved. The federal government had distributed 548,950 doses across the country as of January 7. Ontario aims to finish delivering a first dose to residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes and high-risk nursing homes by February 15, according to briefing documents. Vaccinating residents whose mobility is limited and who are scattered across hundreds of homes is more difficult than reaching nursing home staff and other eligible healthcare workers. Overall, Ontario has administered 144,000 doses of vaccines as of Tuesday, including 13,000 residents of nursing homes and long-term care and 45,000 employees who work in those homes. An additional 20,000 doses of the Moderna (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc vaccine have gone to a combination of residents, staff and essential caregivers in nursing homes and long-term care homes. Quebec, Canada’s worst-hit province, has vaccinated just over half of its long-term care residents, it said Monday. In December, Quebec asked Pfizer Inc (NYSE 🙂 to deliver its first doses directly to large long-term care homes, while Ontario initially planned to rely on injections from Moderna, whose vaccine was later approved and delivered. Healthcare workers are now also moving Pfizer doses to nursing homes in Ontario.