Two health networks in Toronto that were vaccinating people living in COVID-19 hot spots say supply shortages are forcing them to cancel appointments and close immunization clinics.
Scarborough Health Network said it will be closing its Centennial College and Centenary hospital clinics on Wednesday until Monday, when a new shipment of vaccines is expected to arrive.
“Scarborough continues to struggle with the incomprehensible disparity in vaccine distribution for Canada’s most diverse community and one of Ontario’s most severe hot spots,” said Maureen Adamson, the chair of the SNH board of directors in a statement.
University Health Network says it has had to pause registration for appointments for adults over 18 who qualify for vaccination based on their postal code.
A UHN spokeswoman said that if the health network in downtown Toronto had sufficient and reliable supply of vaccine, its clinics could vaccinate 35,000 people per week.
“The supply must move from the federal government so that provinces can get on with vaccination,” said Gillian Howard.
Both organizations said they will reopen their clinics as soon as they receive more vaccines.
The networks said they are contacting everyone whose vaccination appointment was cancelled due to the supply shortage and will rebook appointments as soon as possible.
Ontario has received a total of 4,506,495 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far, and administered 3,310,157 doses – or 73.45 per cent of the supply.
The Progressive Conservative government has faced criticism about lack of a clear plan to vaccinate people in hot spot areas and essential workers.
Premier Doug Ford announced last week that people aged 18 and older in hot spots would be eligible for a shot, but did not say how the process would unfold, leaving many eligible residents frustrated.
The clinics run by Scarborough Health Network were vaccinating local residents over the age of 50, all Indigenous adults, and health-care workers. Others eligible for the vaccine at the closed Scarborough locations are chronic home-care clients, faith leaders, and people over 18 with high-risk health conditions.
Based in Toronto’s east end, SHN said that it was vaccinating about 2,000 people per day at the shuttered clinics.
“Scarborough is the backbone of Toronto,” said Adamson. “Our people are the essential workers that keep Ontario running.”
Adamson noted that the network’s hospitals are seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 admissions throughout this pandemic and the positivity rate in Scarborough’s COVID assessment centres has reached 24 per cent.
UHN said that when it opened up vaccination appointments to adults over 18 in three high-risk postal codes — M5V, M6E, M6H — more than 21,000 people registered before the booking system closed again.
Howard said UHN expects a shipment of 5,000 doses in the next two weeks.
“This can change of course and if it does, we would begin booking the 21,000 people who have registered and then open up the registry again,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 14, 2021.
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press