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1st doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Canada given in Toronto, Quebec City.

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Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker in Toronto, became one of the first people in Canada to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 14, 2020. CBC.

 

Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign kicked off on Monday with the vaccinations of a long-term care resident in Quebec City and a personal support worker in Toronto.

Anita Quidangen, a personal support worker at the Rekai Centre in Toronto, received one of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine given in Canada. There were cheers and clapping as Quidangen got her vaccine — a major milestone in the fight against the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 464,000 people and left more than 13,400 people dead in Canada alone.

The Ontario government said Quidangen was the first person in Canada to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, but it was later confirmed that Gisèle Lévesque, an 89-year-old resident of a long-term care facility in Quebec City, had been vaccinated several minutes earlier.  Lévesque was vaccinated before a small crowd of health-care workers. She smiled after receiving the shot and was given a round of applause.

Retired general Rick Hillier, who is leading Ontario’s vaccine task force, said the number of vaccinations that will take place in the province Monday is “probably pretty small,” but he said it’s still significant — especially for health-care workers and others who have been at the front line of the pandemic for months.

“This is V-Day,” he told CBC News Network early Monday, before the first dose was given. He said there will be challenges and problems ahead as the province works through what will eventually be a massive vaccination campaign.

“That’s exactly what we want — we want those problems and challenges because it means we’re on the way out of the abyss,” he told CBC’s Heather Hiscox. Quebec’s first doses were expected to be given at long-term care homes, while Ontario has said that its first doses were set to be given at hospitals in Toronto and Ottawa.

Ontario’s vaccination effort was initially expected to begin later in the week, but Hillier said that the Toronto effort would begin Monday. “We don’t want to waste any time here,” he said.

Ontario is putting the required second dose aside for the first groups of people receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. That system could change as the delivery protocol changes, but for now officials have said they want to ensure that all the people who receive the first vaccine will be able to access their second shot.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who is handling the logistics of the vaccine rollout, said on Sunday morning that the delivery schedule is “unfolding exactly as planned.”

Fortin told Rosemary Barton, CBC’s chief political correspondent, that provinces confirmed they are ready at the 14 initial locations for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which needs to be kept at extremely cold temperatures.

“We’ve really walked this walk all together in the last several days,” he said, noting that everyone has been closely collaborating.

Ontario reported 1,940 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 544 new cases in Toronto and 390 in Peel Region. Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province completed nearly 57,100 tests.

The province also reported 23 additional deaths, bringing the death toll to 3,972.  COVID-19 hospitalizations in Ontario increased to 857, with 244 people in intensive care units, according to a provincial dashboard

Quebec reported 1,620 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and 25 additional deaths. Hospitalizations rose to 890, with 122 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.

What’s happening across Canada

As of 2 p.m. ET on Monday, Canada’s COVID-19 case count stood at 464,555 with 74,607 of those cases considered active. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 13,488.

Manitoba reported 241 new cases of COVID-19 and nine more deaths on Monday, as health-care workers prepare to receive the province’s first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine starting Wednesday.

There are 386 COVID-19 patients in hospital, 39 of whom are in intensive care. Data on hospitalizations and ICU admissions in the Prairie Mountain Health region were not available Monday due to technical issues, the province said.

Shamattawa First Nation is battling one of the worst outbreaks of the virus in the province. A second contingent of Canadian Armed Forces members arrived on Sunday night to assist.

Alberta reported 22 deaths and 1,717 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday as tight new public health restrictions came into effect across the province.

Alberta, which has now seen 719 deaths, has faced a steep climb in hospitalizations in recent weeks. As of Sunday, the province had 681 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including 136 in intensive care.

The additional restrictions that went into place on Sunday require some businesses — like bars and hair salons — to close down in-person service, while others must limit their capacity.

Dr. Darren Markland, an Edmonton ICU doctor, told CBC’s Rosemary Barton that he expects to get the vaccine this week.

“It brings a level of hope to the front-line workers that we were missing for a while there,” said Markland, who has spoken out about the strain on the province’s hospitals.

In Saskatchewan, health officials reported three additional deaths and 222 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday. There were 117 people with COVID-19 in hospital, including 23 in intensive care units. In Atlantic Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 on Monday.

Nova Scotia reported six new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, while New Brunswick reported two new cases. There were no new cases reported in Prince Edward Island.

Across the North, Nunavut reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, all of them in Arviat. There were no new cases reported in Yukon, or the Northwest Territories on Sunday.

British Columbia doesn’t provide updated COVID-19 data to the public over the weekend. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix are expected to provide more details today about the limited availability of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting this week.

CBC/MS

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