Skip to main content

Migrant farm worker vaccine pilot begins at Toronto airport

Two hundred workers from Mexico received their vaccines without any major glitches, the government says

An Ontario pilot project offering COVID-19 vaccines to migrant farm workers got underway on Saturday at Toronto's international airport.

Avi Yufest, spokesman for the Ontario agriculture ministry, told The Canadian Press the program "went well" as the government offered shots to more than 200 workers landing on an early-morning flight from Mexico.

Officials from the ministries of health and agriculture, health-care practitioners and representatives from the Mexican Consulate were also at Pearson International Airport to meet the group, offering doses of the Moderna vaccine after the workers cleared customs.

The vaccines were administered in a screened-off area after recipients took a mandatory COVID-19 test.

Yufest said there were "no major glitches" in the rollout, but that lessons learned from the first day would be introduced into a more permanent program that will offer shots to more workers arriving next week.

The government has said it plans to follow up with farms to administer the second dose through the local public health unit.

One such unit sounded a recent alarm about current vaccine supplies, raising the spectre of reduced clinic hours or even temporary shutdowns in the coming days if the situation doesn't improve.

York Region Chairman Wayne Emmerson outlined his concerns in a Friday letter to Health minister Christine Elliott, saying a scarcity of Moderna shots leaves the region unable to sustain its current pace of immunizations.

"Given this acute need for our clinics to continue vaccinating prioritized groups, we appeal both to you Minister, and to all our York Region MPPs, for your assistance to acquire any vaccines that can be directed to York Region before next week and keep our clinics fully operational," the letter read.

Alexandra Hilkene, a spokeswoman for Elliott, did not comment specifically on the plea from York Region but described reliable vaccine supply as "the biggest challenge to Ontario's vaccine rollout."

"We continue to be ready to administer doses--and expand the locations administering doses, including mass vaccination sites--as soon as we receive supply from the federal government," she said in a statement.

Ontario said 104,783 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine were administered in the province since Friday's report.

It's the fourth straight day more than 100,000 vaccines have been given out in the province.

A total of 3,044,949 vaccine doses have been administered in Ontario so far.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds