Ford appeals to U.S. president-elect Biden for help securing more COVID-19 vaccines

By Canadian Press

Ontario's premier appealed directly to U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday for help securing more COVID-19 vaccines, a request that came as the province learned it would receive none of the doses expected next week.

Premier Doug Ford expressed frustration about a delivery slowdown of the Pfizer-BioNtech shot that means Ontario will receive thousands fewer doses over the next month. 

The province said that could mean its goal of immunizing all long-term care residents in the province by Feb. 15 won't be achieved.

“My American friends … you have a new president, no more excuses, we need your support” Ford said. “That's a direct message to President Biden. Help out your neighbour. You want us all to get along, hunky dory, kumbaya – help us.”

Canada's doses of the Pfizer-BioTech vaccine are coming from a factory in Belgium that is being upgraded to ramp up production in the coming months.

The company, however, also makes the COVID-19 vaccine at a facility in Michigan.

Ford appealed to Biden, who will be sworn in as president Wednesday, to share a million doses of the Pfizer shot from that plant.

“We're the third largest trading partner (to the United States),” he said. “The least you could do in Kalamazoo where the Pfizer plant is, great relationship-building, give us a million vaccines.”

Ford also expressed frustration with Pfizer executives about the vaccine delays and urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ramp up pressure on the company to deliver more of the shots to Canada.

“If I was in (Trudeau's) shoes … I'd be on that phone call every single day. I'd be up that guy's yin-yang so far with a firecracker he wouldn't know what hit him,” he said of Pfizer's executives. “I would not stop until we get these vaccines.”

The federal government said shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are expected to get back to normal levels in late February and early March. 

The head of Ontario's vaccine task force, retired Gen. Rick Hillier, said he is optimistic the province can still meet its goal of providing the first dose to all of its long-term care residents, workers and essential caregivers by Feb. 15.

“If we fall outside of 15 February, it will be because we do not have sufficient vaccines to complete it prior to then,” he said. “I'm hoping that we can still do it. We're going to be really close one way or the other.” 

That goal has already been achieved in COVID-19 hot spots including Toronto, Peel Region and York Region.

A total of 224,134 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the province.

Ontario reported 1,913 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday and 46 more deaths linked to the virus.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said that due to a technical issue at Toronto Public Health, there was likely an underreporting of cases on Tuesday.


Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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