Long-term care homes and first responders are rolling up their sleeves, as the much-anticipated first batch of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Peel next week.
LTC homes and hospitals will be some of the first sites in the region to receive the vaccine over the coming days and weeks, as continued lockdowns play havoc with holiday celebrations amid spiking confirmed case counts.
Still, the true impact of the vaccine will not be felt until the vaccine is made more widely available, potentially as soon as next spring, said the Region’s medical death of health.
“Our hospital picture is yet to stabilize… our current situation remains incredibly fragile,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, speaking at a press conference in Mississauga Wednesday afternoon. Loh stressed that with get-togethers still occurring and the region is still in a tenuous position, and that it’s still too early to think about holiday celebrations.
Loh also cautioned against relying on the vaccine as an immediate solution, noting that it is important for residents to continue to take precautions.
“An approved vaccine does not help you if you have not received it,” said Loh, who equated the situation to that of wearing a seatbelt. “Inventing seatbelts didn’t immediately make cars safer; it was change over the long term that finally brought safety,” said Loh, who says a traditional holiday celebration will simply not be possible this year.”
With the possibility of an accessible vaccine now on the minds of many, questions are also being raised as to the potential side effects of the vaccine. In the first week of Pfizer’s launch in the U.K., there have been two deaths, while in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has begun recording the Pfizer vaccine’s feasible side-effects, including strokes, encephalitis auto-immune disease, birth defects, and Kawasaki sickness as possible factors to be monitored.
Some residents also hold a mixed view of the potential of a COVID-19 vaccine. JP Virdi, a father of two in Brampton, told Peel Weekly News that he believes in science, and that “I believe in the scientists who have worked tirelessly, meticulously, and methodically, from the design and developmental stage to clinical trials to the regulatory reviews and distribution process. I have absolute faith in the cross-fertilization of scientific knowledge that became united globally for this common goal.”
Others are waiting to see what the potential side-effect are for other recipients before opting for it themselves.
Jaspreet Bhachu, a Brampton resident, said that he will be, “Waiting, watching and learning, first and foremost. This is a deadly virus, we can not dispute that. However, I will wait until I feel as comfortable as possible with the vaccines before I decide if I’ll get vaccinated or not.”
Meanwhile, the region and the province will have to wait for larger availability for the vaccine – with some estimates claiming that April could be the earliest that vaccines will be available to the entirety of the population.
Peel ticked up 528 new cases on Wednesday, with the region of growth appearing to slow slightly. Despite that, city officials in local municipalities expect lockdowns to continue through Christmas.
“I know how tempting it will be to make exceptions,” said Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, who called out residents for visiting other regions to shop and holding private get-togethers. She believes a “GTA-wide lockdown” is needed if the region and the province is to control the virus.
“I’m asking you to please, please, don’t do this. We’ve made such enormous sacrifices, and we’re closer to the endgame,” Crombie said during her regular press conference on Wednesday afternoon.
Multiple LTC homes have also seen outbreaks, with 19 residents in the region dying at such homes over the past week. Crombie said that the decisions residents make now could impact others, including their loved ones.
“The reality is that not listening to public health advice will result in a spike in cases… and now I’m worried we’ll see an even bigger spike after Christmas,” said Crombie. “We can’t lose sight of why we’re making these huge sacrifices.”