Eastern Ontario snowbirds enjoying Florida COVID-19 vaccinations

EASTERN ONTARIO — With Belgian-made Pfizer vaccine in short supply back home in Canada, snowbirds from Eastern Ontario are enjoying access to the exclusive American-made version in Florida.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a local resident of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry marvelled last week at the ongoing rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in the sunshine state, where she and her husband are again overwintering. She said they had the pick of a number of locations to queue up for a shot and had just received their first vaccinations — at separate locations. The process began by registering for an appointment at one of the vaccination sites online. She lined up her first dose in Palm Beach County, while he got his in neighbouring Broward County in the Fort Lauderdale area.

“It has been fantastic. It is so well organized,” the correspondent remarked of the convention centre facility in Delray Beach where she received the jab. She reported being among 1,400 people inoculated during that single day (Thursday, Jan. 21).

By contrast, that’s about the same number of doses administered by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit — exclusively at long-term care homes — over the last two weeks.

She said that vaccination clinics — targeting seniors — have even been set up in grocery stores. “Some of our neighbours got it there.”

“My arm was a little sore, just minor, for about two days afterward, it’s fine,” she said. A second dose was immediately booked upon receiving the first at the vaccination centre, she added.

Eastern Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he would advise local snowbird residents to get the vaccine in Florida if they happen to be there. “If they can get it, get it; they’re high risk,” the doctor said during his Jan. 25 media briefing. “If you can get it, fine.”

Canada received no shipments of the Pfizer vaccine this week as the manufacturer retools its Belgian production facility, which supplies everywhere but the United States with COVID-19 vaccine. Meanwhile, the company’s American-made vaccine is produced just a few hundred kilometres from the Ontario border, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

A Pfizer representative confirmed for NVN that Kalamazoo’s output is reserved for the U.S. market through 2021.

“Our facility in Kalamazoo … is the primary manufacturing site of our COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. Our Puurs, Belgium site is supplying the rest of the world,” said Christina Antoniou, Director, Corporate Affairs for Pfizer Canada.

“Decisions about which manufacturing sites will supply which markets are made at a global level and are subject to change through planning efforts. While both sites are approved by Health Canada to supply the Canadian market, the supply to Canada has been allocated from our site in Belgium for the duration of 2021. We are producing millions of doses of our COVID-19 vaccine each day. Putting two parallel supply chains in place – one in the U.S. and one rest of world – ensures that our efforts are robust and have the appropriate redundancies.”

U.S. President Joe Biden aims to have 100 million shots administered during the first 100 days of his new administration.

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