Could you lie and jump the line for a COVID-19 vaccine? Critics worry Ontario’s system is open to abuse

Ontario is relying on the honour system when it comes to people with underlying medical issues such as cancer and diabetes being able to get early COVID-19 vaccinations regardless of age, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.Her critics say that opens the door to potential abuse when shots begin in April for residents of the province with specific health conditions.“Given the fact that we want to protect the most vulnerable first, the province should have had provisions in place to prevent that from happening,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner, echoing concerns from other opposition parties.Elliott said the government is relying on Ontarians not to game the system when they show up for vaccination appointments as the province otherwise concentrates on its oldest residents most at risk from the virus, with ages 60 and up being the priority. “People are asked a series of questions when they come in,” she told reporters Monday. “In some cases they can probably verify that with their primary-care physicians but in most cases people are honest.”A spokeswoman for Elliott later clarified that many people with specific conditions won’t be booking their vaccinations though the provincial system slated to begin operating March 15, and will likely get their shots at specialty clinics or their own health-care providers “who already have the individual’s health records on hand.”The list of specific medical conditions was released Friday in the government’s latest version of a vaccination plan.It includes recipients of organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants, people with neurological diseases that can impair respiratory function, people with immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders, strokes, dementia, obesity with a body mass index over 40, kidney disease, intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, heart disease, spleen problems, liver disease, pregnancy and some mental disorders.Elliott said local public health units will let residents know when they are eligible for shots.If a person showing up for an appointment is not eligible, vaccination staff “would ask you to come back at a later time, but we haven’t run into very many of those situations,” she added. “People are following the rules.”Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that will not eliminate the risks of unscrupulous types “skipping ahead of the line.”For adults aged 60 to 64 eager to book appointments for AstraZeneca injections at select pharmacies in the Toronto, Kingston and Windsor areas in a pilot project announced last week, Elliott said a list of locations will be made public “very soon.”The vaccines — not yet cleared by Health Canada yet for anyone 65 and older — are expected to be delivered by the federal government to Ontario on Wednesday for shipment to 380 pharmacies on Thursday or Friday.That first shipment of 194,500 vaccines expires April 2, and deliveries will average just over 500 doses per participating pharmacy, with each booking as many as 46 appointments a day. New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she’s concerned pharmacies will be “overloaded” with calls and appointment requests that could lead to problems such as overbookings, as has been seen with flu shots.“People are anxious, they’re waiting with bated breath for their turn.”There are 1 million Ontarians in the 60-64 age category.Elliott said future shipments of AstraZeneca are also slated for pharmacies and will likely go into doctors’ offices as well. The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has presented a unique opportunity for the 1 million Ontarians aged 60 to 64 to get shots ahead of many older residents. Ontarians vaccination plan released Friday has adults 80 and up living on their own being vaccinated now, followed by people over 75 starting April 1, over 70s in mid-April, over 65s starting in late April and those 60 and over not until early May.However, retired general Rick Hillier, heading Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, said Friday that time lines could be accelerated given federal approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the same day and unexpected word that 3.5 million extra doses of Pfizer vaccine are coming to Canada before the end of May.The goal is now to offer first shots to all adults in Ontario by June 20, the first day of summer, he added. Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Could you lie and jump the line for a COVID-19 vaccine? Critics worry Ontario’s system is open to abuse

Ontario is relying on the honour system when it comes to people with underlying medical issues such as cancer and diabetes being able to get early COVID-19 vaccinations regardless of age, says Health Minister Christine Elliott.

Her critics say that opens the door to potential abuse when shots begin in April for residents of the province with specific health conditions.

“Given the fact that we want to protect the most vulnerable first, the province should have had provisions in place to prevent that from happening,” said Green Leader Mike Schreiner, echoing concerns from other opposition parties.

Elliott said the government is relying on Ontarians not to game the system when they show up for vaccination appointments as the province otherwise concentrates on its oldest residents most at risk from the virus, with ages 60 and up being the priority.

“People are asked a series of questions when they come in,” she told reporters Monday. “In some cases they can probably verify that with their primary-care physicians but in most cases people are honest.”

A spokeswoman for Elliott later clarified that many people with specific conditions won’t be booking their vaccinations though the provincial system slated to begin operating March 15, and will likely get their shots at specialty clinics or their own health-care providers “who already have the individual’s health records on hand.”

The list of specific medical conditions was released Friday in the government’s latest version of a vaccination plan.

It includes recipients of organ transplants and hematopoietic stem cell transplants, people with neurological diseases that can impair respiratory function, people with immune deficiencies and autoimmune disorders, strokes, dementia, obesity with a body mass index over 40, kidney disease, intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, heart disease, spleen problems, liver disease, pregnancy and some mental disorders.

Elliott said local public health units will let residents know when they are eligible for shots.

If a person showing up for an appointment is not eligible, vaccination staff “would ask you to come back at a later time, but we haven’t run into very many of those situations,” she added. “People are following the rules.”

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said that will not eliminate the risks of unscrupulous types “skipping ahead of the line.”

For adults aged 60 to 64 eager to book appointments for AstraZeneca injections at select pharmacies in the Toronto, Kingston and Windsor areas in a pilot project announced last week, Elliott said a list of locations will be made public “very soon.”

The vaccines — not yet cleared by Health Canada yet for anyone 65 and older — are expected to be delivered by the federal government to Ontario on Wednesday for shipment to 380 pharmacies on Thursday or Friday.

That first shipment of 194,500 vaccines expires April 2, and deliveries will average just over 500 doses per participating pharmacy, with each booking as many as 46 appointments a day.

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she’s concerned pharmacies will be “overloaded” with calls and appointment requests that could lead to problems such as overbookings, as has been seen with flu shots.

“People are anxious, they’re waiting with bated breath for their turn.”

There are 1 million Ontarians in the 60-64 age category.

Elliott said future shipments of AstraZeneca are also slated for pharmacies and will likely go into doctors’ offices as well.

The vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University has presented a unique opportunity for the 1 million Ontarians aged 60 to 64 to get shots ahead of many older residents.

Ontarians vaccination plan released Friday has adults 80 and up living on their own being vaccinated now, followed by people over 75 starting April 1, over 70s in mid-April, over 65s starting in late April and those 60 and over not until early May.

However, retired general Rick Hillier, heading Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force, said Friday that time lines could be accelerated given federal approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the same day and unexpected word that 3.5 million extra doses of Pfizer vaccine are coming to Canada before the end of May.

The goal is now to offer first shots to all adults in Ontario by June 20, the first day of summer, he added.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

Source : Toronto Star More