Gates at odds with Oosterhoff over Niagara’s vaccine shortage

Gates and Oosterhoff Wayne Gates (left) Sam Oosterhoff (right)

Niagara Falls NDP MPP Wayne Gates is demanding answers from the provincial government regarding Niagara’s vaccine shortage.

“I asked two questions which should be simple to answer given how many months they’ve had to get this vaccine rollout right — where did Niagara’s diverted Moderna vaccines go and when will they (the province) be resending us our fair share of those vaccines,” Gates said in a press release issued Friday afternoon.

Gates last Tuesday asked Health Minister Christine Elliot for an explanation in the legislature but did not receive any answers.

On Wednesday, Gates said, she told him the vaccines were diverted but couldn’t explain exactly where they were sent.

“If the (Premier Doug) Ford government thinks dodging these questions will make the residents of Niagara forget that our fair share of vaccines were taken from us, they’re wrong,” Gates said. “These answers aren’t good enough, and I’m going to keep asking until we get the truth.”

The Niagara Falls Review reached out to Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff on the weekend. He did not respond to Gates’ two questions but did say the reduction in supplies in Ontario lies with the federal government.

“Due to the unexpected reduction in the supply of vaccines from the federal government, Ontario had to make adjustments to our vaccination plan to ensure the most vulnerable, like those in long-term-care, received the vaccine as quickly as possible,” he said Sunday in a prepared statement.

That answer didn’t sit well with Gates.

“Sam owes it to his constituents, and he owes to the people of Niagara to provide an answer of where our vaccines went,” said Gates.

“Niagara accounts for a signification portion of the deaths in Ontario. I believe we’re somewhere between four and five per cent.”

A report issued by Public Health Ontario on Saturday verified that statement. It indicated there had been 6,861 deaths since the first reported case last year; Niagara accounts for 365 of those deaths.

“We continue to vaccinate Phase 1 priority populations, which now includes those 80 years of age and older, and are ready to administer doses as soon as we receive them from the federal government,” said Oosterhoff.

“We have the capacity to vaccinate nearly 40,000 people per day and will be able to triple or quadruple that capacity pending federal government supply.”

Phase 2 vaccinations are expected to begin in April.

Oosterhoff said Ontario has administered more than 518,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, and that more than 217,000 people are fully vaccinated.

Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: [email protected]