As COVID-19 cases reach all-time highs across the province, a Toronto doctor is questioning why Kingston was given the green light to test pharmacy vaccine distribution last month instead of Brampton — a hot spot for infections.
As of the week of April 21, Brampton’s coronavirus positivity rate is almost double the provincial rate of 10.4 per cent, reaching 22.4 per cent per 100,000 people. KFL&A Public health’s dashboard shows Kingston’s positivity rate is between 0.5-1.2 per cent of the same ratio.
“This pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on racialized communities,” says Dr. Amit Arya, a palliative care physician in Toronto.
Arya said that Kingston getting a boost in the AstraZeneca vaccine supply in March as part of a pharmacy rollout pilot project was “system discrimination.
“I mean, we know that Brampton has many people who are immigrants, many people who are racialized, people working as low-income essential workers. These are people that politicians call heroes,” Arya said.
But, he questions why the province is so slow in protecting these groups from contracting and spreading COVID-19 and variants of concern.
Brampton’s Mayor Patrick Brown echoes Arya’s concerns.
“I think there are some real institutional inequities in Ontario, and resources have not matched the growth that we’ve seen in some of these very diverse, suburban communities,” said Brown.
KFL&A’s medical officer of health Dr. Moore says he is not sure why Kingston was chosen over regions that are needier. Dr. Kieran Moore says that KFL&A has one of the highest immunized rates while being one of the lower-risk areas.
“I’m not aware of why the ministry chose KFL&A. When you look at the big picture, the amount of vaccine we got is very small, relative to what is required in Toronto,” said Moore.
When asked for comment, the Ministry of Health did not specify what criteria Kingston met to be one of the three cities to be apart of the initial pharmacy vaccine rollout, but said COVID-19 vaccines are ramping up in hot spot communities. The ministry said the province is ensuring that all pharmacies are participating. Site selection included input from local public health units, and the Ontario Pharmacists Association (OPA.)
The Ministry of Health said Six 24/7 Shoppers Drug Mart locations will be administrating vaccines in Brampton. The city has a total of 61 pharmacies giving vaccinations, with a population of around 700,000.
Now, all pharmacies in the province are offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, and regions with lower positivity, like Kingston, will now receive reduced vaccine supply.
Arya says hot spot zones should have been the priority from the start.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t send the fire engines to where the fires are actually burning. I mean for some reason, Kingston was chosen for the pilot program for the pharmacies, over an area like Brampton and Scarborough,” said Arya.
Peel Region’s medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh says that assuming that anyone you meet outside of your home has COVID-19 would be an accurate assumption as the third wave reaches its peak and one in five COVID-19 tests in Brampton are coming back positive.
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