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Ontario to receive 53,000 Moderna COVID-19 vaccine doses by end of December

Premier Doug Ford says the new vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, is a 'game-changer'

TORONTO — Ontario says it expects to receive approximately 53,000 doses of the newly approved Moderna COVID-19 vaccine by the end this month.

Premier Doug Ford says the new vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday, is a "'game-changer."

A spokeswoman for Ontario's health minister says the province expects to receive the doses next week and they will first be taken to long-term care homes.

She says the province is working with public health units on a plan to start administering the shots in long-term care facilities during the first week of January.

Ford says the Moderna vaccine can be more easily transported than the Pfizer-BioNtech dose – the only other immunization approved by Health Canada – which is why it will be taken to long-term care homes first. 

The premier says other priority groups, including Indigenous communities and residents of retirement homes, will also receive the Moderna vaccine soon.

"We are taking another step towards ending this terrible pandemic," Ford said of the vaccine's approval in Canada while noting the need for residents to keep heeding public health advice. 

"As we await the arrival of more vaccines, I continue to ask all Ontarians to remain vigilant and keep following the public health measures."

Ontario began administering the Pfizer-BioNtec vaccine to health-care workers on Dec. 14. The government has noted, however, that COVID-19 immunizations aren't expected to be more broadly available to the general public until April.

The Moderna doses are set to arrive shortly after Ontario enters a provincewide lockdown on Boxing Day in an effort to bring soaring COVID-19 cases under control. 

Ontario reported 2,408 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as well as 41 more deaths from the virus. 

Health Minister Christine Elliott said 629 of the new cases were in Toronto, 448 in Peel Region, 234 in Windsor-Essex, and 190 in York Region. 

The government said 1,002 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. That number includes 275 people in intensive care, and 186 on ventilators. 

The province's lockdown that begins Dec. 26 is set to last 28 days for southern Ontario but will lift for northern Ontario on Jan. 9.

It will shutter all non-essential businesses, ban indoor gatherings, close restaurant dining rooms, and see all schools move classes online for the first week of the new year. It also means Ontarians are advised to stay home as much as possible.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2020. 

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press