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COVID-19 immunization rates limited by supply of vaccine

The first doses of the vaccine arrived in the region last month. [Submitted]

The vaccine remains in short supply as Waterloo Region health officials prioritize the immunization of long-term care and retirement home residents.

Mobile clinics began rolling out January 12, helping to boost region-wide totals to 12,000 shots by week’s end as stock on hand was used up and officials awaited another shipment this week.

“The priority right now is to transfer the Pfizer vaccine to the mobile clinics so that vaccinations can continue in the mobile clinics with long-term care and retirement home residents being the priority,” Waterloo Regional Police Deputy Chief Shirley Hilton, who heads the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, said at a briefing January 15.

“We continue to be on track of immunizing in all long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes within two weeks. While the mobile teams were in the homes, the Grande River hospital clinic continued to run simultaneously, with second doses being administered yesterday.”

Just now, the pace of immunization is dictated by the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Public health officials are also dealing with restrictions under a province-wide stay-at-home order, put in place last week to help stem spiking levels of COVID-19 cases in the region.

“We are currently in a state of emergency and we encourage everyone to follow all public health guidelines so we can ensure we are all doing our part to stop this virus from spreading,” said Hilton.

The plan is to continue administering inoculations even in places that have active outbreaks, said Wang.

“It’s not recommended to proceed with immunizations on a temporary basis only when the home is unstable… as soon as we can lift the restriction for immunization on a home or part of the home, we do that. Every day we lift restrictions on homes – we have many homes under outbreak, and the large majority are proceeding with immunizations.” 

Such facilities are also the priority of neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, which has made changes to its rollout in response to Pfizer’s announcement renovations at its Belgium plant would cause temporary shortages in supplies of the vaccine.

“[WDG] is making changes to its COVID-19 vaccination program in response to Pfizer’s recent production announcement. The pausing of some production lines at Pfizer’s facility in Belgium to increase overall capacity will be felt in Ontario and affect deliveries to Guelph for a short period of time. WDG Public Health will continue to move forward aggressively with the vaccine supply on hand. However, changes to the vaccination clinics and some rescheduling of appointments will be unavoidable. People who are affected will be contacted directly. The vaccines will continue to be prioritized to residents, staff and essential caregivers in long-term care and retirement homes,” said medical officer of health Dr. Nicola Mercer in a statement.  

“Everyone wants to see vaccines arrive as quickly as possible to the region. This delay is only temporary and will allow the manufacturer the ability to provide increased vaccine to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph in the coming weeks. As an agency, our commitment remains, vaccinating as many people as quickly as possible according to the provincial schedule.”  

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