Regional council calls on province to include Mississauga in pharmacy vaccine pilot project, direct vaccines to essential workers

 

Peel Region council, which is comprised of councillors from Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, unanimously passed a motion calling on the province to include the hard-hit municipalities in a pilot program that allows select pharmacies to give vaccines to residents between 60 and 64 years of age. 

During the March 11 meeting, council also passed Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish's motion requesting that the province allow the region to administer vaccines to willing workers in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, distribution centres and food processing facilities in Peel. 

The pharmacy motion, put forth by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, came days after the province announced that, starting March 12, over 325 pharmacies will be offering the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to eligible residents in Toronto, Windsor-Essex, and Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.

At a March 10 press conference, Crombie said that Peel's exclusion from the pharmacy pilot program was disappointing, adding that she was unsure why the region, which remains one of the hardest-hit in Canada, was left out of a project that includes a city (Kingston) that is currently in the least restrictive green zone of the province's colour-coded framework.

Peel is in the grey/lockdown zone and has been since November 2020. 

"I was disappointed that Mississauga, and Peel Region, were not included in the pilot project that will see pharmacies administer the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine to people ages 60 to 64 beginning this week. We are thankful, however, that the province did announce that hotspot regions will receive additional doses of the vaccine during Phase 2 of the rollout," Crombie said in an email to insauga.com. 

"I will continue advocating for Mississauga to receive its fair share of vaccines so we can get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible and begin looking to the broader reopening of our economy."

At the press conference, Crombie told reporters that the city was not consulted on the pharmacy pilot and was not aware that Peel would be excluded. 

While Peel is part of a second pilot project that will allow primary care providers (such as family physicians) to begin vaccinating eligible residents within the next few days, Crombie said that only eight providers will be given access to just 29,500 shots.

The pharmacy pilot, on the other hand, includes the distribution of 165,000 vaccines. 

"…the primary care pilot [has] six public health units (PHUs) participating [and] PHUs that fall into the two strictest COVID-19 zones—grey and red—will only be receiving 15 per cent of the AstraZeneca supply," Crombie's motion reads. 

"…The pharmacy pilot that is made up of three PHUs, including a PHU in the Green-Prevent zone, is receiving 85 per cent of the vaccine supply."

Crombie's motion says that since Toronto, which is also still in lockdown, is involved in both pilots, Peel should be as well. 

"The council of the Region of Peel supports a request to the province to be treated with fairness and be immediately included in the pharmacy vaccination pilot, and that this request be sent to the Premier of Ontario, Minister of Health Christine Elliot, General Hillier and the Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark." 

Parrish's motion, which is also supported by candidates for the Ontario Liberal Party, also passed unanimously. 

The motion says that approximately 370 of the region’s outbreaks have been reported in workplaces, with the majority occurring in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, distribution centres and food processing facilities.  

“The City of Mississauga requests the Ontario government prioritize and expedite vaccination of all those Peel residents employed under conditions that make their places of work conductive to the spread of COVID-19,” the motion reads. 

The motion also calls on the province to bring vaccines to the workplaces themselves to “more efficiently slow the spread of COVID-19 in hotspots” such as Peel. 

Multiple Ontario Liberal Party candidates, all of whom are vying for seats in Peel, submitted a letter to regional councillors asking them to support the motion. 

"Vaccinating these workers is crucial to Peel successfully lowering the transmission of COVID-19 and reopening our local economy. The Region of Peel has consistently had one of the highest rates of infection in the province, and has been in lockdown since November 23 requiring businesses to be closed for over 100 days," the candidates wrote. 

"Our residents are discouraged, frustrated and desperate for hope…Peel is on fire and this government continues to choose not to act." 

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