The province wants to make sure Ontario hospitals are not overwhelmed with patients with seasonal influenza. Today Premier Doug Ford announced the government is investing $71-million dollars in what he calls the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history. The government has purchased 5.1 million doses of the flu vaccine for the province and has set aside millions of dollars more for additional vaccinations. This is the first pillar of the province’s COVID-19 Fall Preparedness Plan. Ford says the other pillars will be rolled out in the next few days.
Ford says flu season presents an additional challenge to hospitals as the province prepares for the second wave of COVID-19, “We know a second wave is coming, we know it will be more complicated than the first wave. We know it will be more challenging on the system. What we don’t know is how bad it will be, how hard we will get hit because that is up to all of us. We all have a part to play and it starts with everyone getting their flu shot this year. So please, please make sure you get yours. It’s never been more important.”
Ford says anyone who wants a flu shot can get it this year, “I encourage everyone to please get a flu shot this year. It’s absolutely critical. Folks, we need your help. It’s the best way to protect you and your family because the next few months will be critical.”
For the first time ever high-dose flu vaccines will be available to seniors at pharmacies instead of at family physicians. Vaccines will also be given to the province’s most vulnerable population in long-term care homes, hospitals, and retirement homes. According to Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, those vaccines should be available by mid-next week. For the rest of the population, Elliott says the vaccine should be available by the second week of October.
For regular viewers of Ford’s daily media briefings, it has become clear that his demeanour has become more restrained since the number of new cases is reaching levels not seen since early May, and Ford was asked if he is worried, “I’m concerned, I really am. You know, we’ve worked so hard, we were below the 100 [mark of new cases], and all of a sudden we knew this was coming and I heard it was heading up. Heading up toward Northern Michigan now and the numbers are climbing 500, maybe 700, maybe 1,000. But it’s all hands on deck.” Ford says it is critical that the federal government and Health Canada get rapid testing approved saying it plays a “massive part” in the province’s testing plan.