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Thursday, December 9, 2021

‘A dire warning’: New report highlights existing barriers in COVID-19 vaccine distribution

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A new report by CanAge, a national seniors advocacy organization, is bringing to light long-standing barriers when it comes to adult vaccinations across Canada.

Experts say the same issues outlined in the report are being mirrored in Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

The research honed in on pneumonia, influenza and shingles vaccinations for people age 65 and older. It then graded each province based on federal immunization guidelines and how each province measured up. Ontario and Prince Edward Island were among the top scores, coming in at a B-.

Yet, both provinces fell alarmingly short in pneumonia and shingles immunization. In Ontario, 50 per cent of of seniors were not vaccinated for pneumonia and 47 per cent for shingles. The report also found shingles vaccinations were not covered by any provinces.

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“We expected the results to be poor,” said CanAge CEO Laura Tamblyn Watts.

“Even we didn’t think it would be as bad as it is.”

The report calls for “immediate enhancements to the way (provinces and territories) procure and deliver vaccines to their older population.”

“All too often, acquisition of vaccines gets mired in federal budget approval, provincial purchasing and local slow and ineffectual.”

The research suggests vaccine acquisition issues are stemming from a lack of federal funding.

“It does not inspire any confidence at all to see that Canada gets a D- for the vaccines we already have and already know how to distribute. We’re looking right now at how we’re distributing COVID-19 vaccines to seniors with a very worried concern,” said Watts.

“(National Advisory Committee on Immunization) recommendations and the World Health Organization recommend 80 to 90 per cent vaccination rates. In Canada we barely hit a 10 per cent vaccination rate.”

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The most recent data shows as of Thursday, 1.6 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine had been administered to Canadians. In Ontario, more than 620,000 people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.

Epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan says there’s been lots of confusion around the process, adding, “it’s unclear whose responsible.”

“Is it provincially mandated? Is it from the public health units? We have these strange edicts from press conferences saying it’s the family doctors are in charge of informing patients, but family doctors have no idea.”

“The ability to get answers to those questions does not fill me with confidence that we have it all figured out yet.”

In Durham, vaccination clinics have been designated for each municipality, but there’s still no word on when they will be up and running. Dr. Deonandan says public health units don’t seem to feel “empowered” to roll out the vaccines and there’s been little insight on how the booking process will work.

“The fact that we have templates to follow from other places that do do this well, like Israel for example and some parts of the U.S., tells me that we will have it figured out quickly.”

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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