It was an innovative idea that deviated slightly from provincial guidelines but aimed to produce “herd immunity” in apartment buildings packed with senior citizens.
Any willing adult in the towers who was 18 or over would be eligible, meaning younger people could potentially get vaccinated months early, while helping protect more vulnerable neighbours.
But the plans by a hospital in north-end Toronto have suddenly been cancelled or tightly restricted, the last-minute decision coming in the wake of “advice” from the city’s public-health department after a National Post story about the project Saturday.
The changes would seem to underline the political sensitivities around Canada’s painfully slow vaccine rollout, where the hint of queue jumping — even when sanctioned by a health-care organization — is quickly snuffed out.
In another incident, a Toronto hospital appeared to offer anyone 16 and older the chance to take advantage of soon-to-expire vaccine doses left over at the end of the day. Within hours of inviting people to register, the hospital
for its leftover-shots wait list, saying only those eligible in Ontario’s first phases of rollout could get the last-minute injections.
At a condo building whose mobile clinic was supposed to take place this Saturday, the cancellation has left a sour taste. Though most of the residents are elderly and many are over 80, it is a relatively well-to-do population, and that may have influenced the decision, suggests resident Roy Stephenson, 76.
“With all due respect to the government … it stinks to me of politics,” said the retired lawyer, resident of the Highgate condominium. “I think it has to do with the fact it is an affluent building.”
At two other buildings whose clinics were supposed to take place Tuesday for all ages, residents found out Tuesday morning that only those 70 and over would qualify. The day before, a notice had said anyone 50 and over could get a shot, before the instructions were modified further.
The change seems strange given reports of health officials having a hard time finding willing recipients of the vaccines, said Eric Thom, 66, who lives in one of the two buildings.
“Somebody saw (the National Post) article and bitched about the fact ‘What do you mean 20-year-old people are getting vaccinated? That’s not fair,’ ” said the advertising copy writer. “(But) fair across the board isn’t necessarily working. The bottom line is there’s a clock on these vaccines, so get it done.”
The pilot projects were the work of North York General Hospital and the affiliated North York Toronto Health Partners. They were implementing recommendations from the province’s COVID science advisory table to target so-called naturally occurring retirement communities, or NORCs, buildings that happen to have a high percentage of older residents.
Organizers planned to immunize everyone in the buildings, figuring that if they left the relatively few younger residents unvaccinated, those people could still pose a risk to the others.
But in a notice to the Highgate condo Sunday, program co-ordinator James Schembri said there had been “much discussion with Toronto Public Health this weekend.” The city had advised the hospital group that “mobile vaccine efforts must be focused on the highest risk buildings at this time,” said the note.
The hospital said Tuesday it made adjustments to the program to abide by provincial requirements.
“We regret any confusion and concern that this caused residents in the building who are under 70,” said spokeswoman Melissa Londono.
An official of the city’s public health department said the unit merely provided advice, based on its current rollout plan and provincial guidelines, and North York General decided to change its projects.
Given the limited supply of vaccine, the current focus is on inoculating “adults 70 years of age and older, frontline health care workers and other select high-risk groups,” Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital caused a stir late last week when it invited people to register on a wait list for vaccine left unused at the end of the day. The original form did not have an age restriction, and linked from a page on the hospital’s website offering vaccine advice to people aged 16 to 59, said
, a local school-board trustee.
But the hospital
the leftover doses were not available to that age group and were only for people who qualified under the province’s first two rollout phases. It closed the wait list after receiving 60,000 submissions in 30 hours.
“I’m going to guess phones started ringing, maybe from hospital administration or (Toronto) Public Health,” said Di Pasquale about the modified instructions.
But a hospital spokeswoman said Tuesday that it received no instructions from the city or province. It never intended to give priority to the younger group for standby doses and modified instructions to “help manage the expectations.”
Meanwhile, Michael Garron is “using all of our vaccine doses daily with minimal wastage,” she said.
Source: National Post Quebec Nordiques