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Limited supplies keep region in phase one of vaccine rollout

Close up of prepares a patient for vaccination
Close up of prepares a patient for vaccination

Waterloo Region Public Health this week opened a vaccination clinic  in Waterloo, with plans for a second in Cambridge next week, and added new groups to the list of those eligible in phase one of the vaccine rollout.

In a briefing Friday, Shirley Hilton, head of the region’s vaccine distribution task force, announced a Cambridge site for the week of March 8, with a second location the following week. Those sites will be open to people over the age of 80.

The region is also making plans, as yet unspecified, for wider distribution when vaccine supplies become available. In the townships, the first site is likely to be in Wellesley, though the region has yet to specify a date or an exact location.

“Our task force is working with our primary care CHC (community health centres) out in the townships just to look at what is the best delivery in those areas for the residents. I know they’ve been working really close with primary care doctors, and also with the CAOs and mayors, too, in terms of how can we have the best delivery or access to vaccine for our rural populations,” said Hilton.

This week also saw two new priority groups added to phase one of the rollout plan: homeless or precariously housed and active-duty frontline police officers. 

“We have been working to leverage with our community partners and clinical outreach teams in partnership with the region to offer pop-up clinics at shelters or drop-in centres where we already have existing clinic space. We will be using or requesting the assistance of our outreach workers to also reach those that don’t necessarily utilize our shelter system,” she said. “We don’t have dates yet we have but we are working with our teams to set those appointments out.

“The second grouping is the police. They have been added to phase one specific to active-duty frontline police officers who respond to medical calls for service and provide emergency assistance.

At this point, the region has administered 34,835 doses, and 13,309 have received both shots, deemed fully vaccinated. In each case, the vaccine is the one supplied by Pfizer BioNTech, though that may change. Health Canada this week approved the single-dose Johnson  & Johnson vaccine, having previously cleared the Moderna and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines.

Lining up new locations now will help the region rollout out vaccinations more quickly as supplies grow, said regional Chair Karen Redman.

“As vaccine supply increases in the coming months, these locations will play a critical role in the region’s targeted delivery of 10,000 or more doses a day. It’s important to remind everyone that in order to reduce barriers to getting the vaccine, the task forces engaged in a layered approach to vaccine delivery. This includes large clinic locations as well as mobile units, pharmacy, small clinics and primary care offices.”

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