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Ontario's 1st COVID-19 Vaccines Go To Toronto Health-Care Workers

“OK, who’s next?”

TORONTO — Ontario’s first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine went to five “Rekai angels,” front-line workers from Toronto’s Rekai Centre nursing home.

“I’m excited because I’m the first one to get the vaccine,” personal support worker Anita Quidangen told a reporter on scene at University Health Network (UHN) in downtown Toronto.

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The room broke into applause after she received the shot.

“OK, who’s next?” asked Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN’s president and CEO.

Quebec’s health minister said 89-year-old Gisele Levesque received her vaccination at 11:30 a.m. at the Saint-Antoine long-term care home in Quebec City, making her the first person in Canada to get the shot.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford celebrated the historic occasion in a statement.

“Anita has spent years rolling up her sleeves to protect our province, and today, she didn’t hesitate to find a new way to do so. She represents the best of the Ontario Spirit,” he said of the first Toronto worker to be vaccinated.

“I encourage everyone to be patient. This is the biggest immunization program in a century, and our vaccine supply will arrive in stages … This is a watershed moment - the beginning of the end of this terrible pandemic. The light at the end of the tunnel grows brighter every day, but we must remain on our guard.”

Here are details about the first five recipients, provided by Ford’s office.

  • Anita Quidangen, personal support worker. Anita was hired in 1988, the year the Rekai Centre opened its first long-term care home. She worked tirelessly throughout the home’s COVID-19 outbreak, often doing double shifts.
  • Lucky Aguila, registered practical nurse. Lucky did his placement at the Rekai Centre’s Sherbourne Place as a student in 2019. He then joined the Rekai Centres in May 2020 when Rekai was in outbreak, sleeping close by at the Isabella Hotel while the home was in outbreak.
  • Derek Thompson, personal support worker. Derek worked throughout the outbreak for very long hours providing care to the residents.
  • Cecile Lasco, personal support worker. Cecile worked at the Rekai Centre for almost 20 years. Both she and her husband worked throughout COVID-19 outbreaks.
  • Colette Cameron, registered nurse. Facing an outbreak at her home, it was all hands on deck. Colette, who serves as executive director of the Rekai Centre at Sherbourne Place, worked 16 hour days, seven days a week on the frontlines as a registered nurse and personal support worker.

“We have been waiting for this for so long,” said Lasco after she got her injection.

“Today, really we turned the corner,” said Dr. Smith. “This is the shot that will be heard around the world, literally.”

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario is administered to personal support worker Anita Quidangen at a hospital in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2020.
The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario is administered to personal support worker Anita Quidangen at a hospital in Toronto on Dec. 14, 2020.

On Friday, Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the hospitals receiving the first shots have made security arrangements to ensure the vaccine is safe from theft.

“This vaccine is liquid gold,” she said. “We are getting a very limited supply, and we wanted to make sure that we had done our due diligence to ensure that the sites were ready (and) protected.”

COVID-19 has killed more than 13,000 Canadians since the pandemic began in early 2020. Many provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, are in the grips of a second wave. Ontario reported 1,940 new cases Monday while Quebec reported 1,620.

With a file from The Canadian Press

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said the Toronto workers were the first in Canada to be vaccinated for COVID-19. The first person to be vaccinated was in fact Quebecker Gisèle Lévesque, 89.

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