"Since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in mid-December of 2020, the Ontario government has been grappling with a series of challenges.
Only a few weeks in, critics were saying the process was too slow, and some were angered the campaign was paused for a few days over the holidays.
Despite the campaign's acceleration throughout January, the province continues to run into new problems, such as the recent Pfizer vaccine shortage, which forced the creation of a new prioritization plan until allocation levels are restored.
Why does Ontario seem to be facing challenge after challenge?
Experts discuss five reasons.
James Tiessen, director of the health administration master's program at Ryerson University, said the reason why an annual immunization campaign, such as the flu shot, typically runs smoother than what is currently happening with COVID-19, is because it's "a routine yearly exercise."
He said medical experts understand how the flu works and there is a known process for making and distributing a new flu vaccine each year.
"Every year, for example, they don't have to ask 'should we have pharmacists give it out?'" Tiessen said. "For the last few years, that's been part of the regular rollout."
Tiessen said another issue is that Canada does not have a predictable COVID-19 vaccine supply, and that the Canadian government does not have "much control over that."
Reggie Lo, professor emeritus in the department of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Guelph, said vaccine shortages, such as what is currently being experienced with Pfizer, are to be expected.
"With a global demand for vaccines, of course there will be shortages," Lo said. "There is only a handful of facilities that can manufacture the vaccines. Even if they can produce 1 million doses per day, it will take 100 days to manufacture 100 million."
He said with a couple of other vaccines being approved soon, the supply will improve significantly.
As well, as of Feb. 2, the federal government announced a tentative deal to produce the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine out of Montreal if it gets approved — a first step toward domestic vaccine manufacturing.
'FAILURE OF IMAGINATION'
Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor in Health Sciences at University of Ottawa, said many of the missteps seen throughout the province with regards to the rollout are a result of a "failure of imagination" and therefore, a "lack of planning."
An example of this, he said, is the way many hospitals have been administering surplus doses to non-priority individuals. This happens when a vial gets opened up (which contains up to six doses) and one or more of the people who have an appointment do not make it there, sometimes as a result of the screening process in the building.
"Is the goal to use this precious, finite commodity to harden our society against the wave that is descending upon it, or is it to just get it into any old arm," he said.
LACK OF DATA INFRASTRUCTURE
Deonandan said a lack of data infrastructure plays a significant role in the aforementioned missteps.
"You shouldn't open the vial unless you know there are six bodies in front of you (and) you shouldn't have a COVID screening system in the building that prevents people who are scheduled to get doses from getting the doses," he said.
He added that another example of a failure in data management is the realization last week that Ontario had been reporting the wrong number of people who had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Deonandan said having more individuals on the planning committee with expertise in running vaccination campaigns would go a long way.
The need to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines to cohorts that need it most poses another challenge, Tiessen said.
"If you didn't care about the priority and just went after numbers and logistics, I think you could do it easily, but it gets more complicated when you try to get it out to populations that really need it."" (Appia, 2021)
** All credit goes toward Veronica Appia from Toronto.com, please follow this link to see the original article --> https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10322022-5-challenges-with-ontario-s-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-according-to-experts/ **
Appia, V. (2021, February 03). 5 challenges with ontario's COVID-19 vaccine ROLLOUT, according to experts. Retrieved February 06, 2021, from https://www.toronto.com/news-story/10322022-5-challenges-with-ontario-s-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-according-to-experts/