Twice this week Premier Ford talked about how the province has already distributed 4.1 Million doses of this year’s flu vaccine. But he also indicated that the province had ordered only 5.1 Million doses, meaning there are only 900,000 doses available for the rest of the season. Many Ontarians and many of them seniors, have not been able to get a flu shot yet and most of the chain pharmacies are posting signs saying they do not have vaccine. For clarification we contacted a media spokesperson at the Minister of health asking the following: I just heard the premiers news conference today and again heard that something like 4.2 million doses of the 5.1 ordered have already gone out. Pharmacies are generally out of the product. Are we to understand that there are only 900,000 doses left for the population who have not yet had a flu shot?
In his response the spokesperson made the point that more Ontarians getting the flu shot, and earlier, than ever before. “In a typical year, by mid-October Ontario’s pharmacies have administered approximately 150,000 flu shots – this year, they have provided close to 800,000. By comparison, Quebec and British Columbia have not yet formally launched their flu shot campaigns.
But the spokesperson also confirmed that the province is actively trying to obtain more doses than it had originally ordered, suggesting that demand is exceeding supply. Jurisdictions ordered this year’s flu shots last year, long before anybody had heard about COVID. The spokesperson wrote, “The province continues to receive regular shipments of its total order, in addition to continuing to explore all options to procure additional flu vaccine doses. Yesterday, Minister Elliott spoke to Minister Hadju to request that the federal government work with manufacturers to deliver the remainder of the province’s doses purchased through its national bulk purchasing program at an accelerated rate, as well as explore the provision of additional doses beyond what was procured. We have also reached out to our private sector partners to identify additional opportunities to procure supply beyond the historic levels that have already been distributed to Ontarians.”
He added that (probably because most people are wearing masks and social distancing) the regular seasonal flu numbers “are low for this time of year compared to previous years. This is evidence that the historic uptake of the flu vaccine, in addition to the safe hygiene practices being practiced diligently by all Ontarians, is working and will continue to work as we move through the fall and winter season.”
The spokesperson was unable to tell us how many of the more than 4 million flue shots that have been distributed have actually been administered to patients.
We asked Public Health in Hamilton about the local situation and were told that the department has received 78,000 doses—63,000 of which went to local physicians and 7,000 to Long term care facilities. In addition there would be whatever number of doses that went to pharmacies, who receive their allocation directly from the government. But so far we have been unable to get a clear answer to some basic questions:
- How many doses of flu vaccine are left in Ontario?
- Will there be enough vaccine for every one who needs it?