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Region opens new vaccine clinics, but pace still remains slow

[Submitted]

The Region of Waterloo is starting to administer the Moderna vaccine, branching out from exclusively using the Pfizer-BionNTech as has been the case since December.

Health officials are also extending the period between the first and second shots of the vaccine, part of a new process laid out March 12 in the weekly pandemic briefing. What once was a two- or three-week gap between doses has now be extended to 16 weeks between injections. In the region, that process began March 10 but does not apply to residents of long-term care or retirement homes who were at most significant risk to exposure will receive their next dose at the 21-day increment, said Shirley Hilton, who heads the region’s vaccine distribution task force.

The rollout remains slow in the region, largely due to a lack of vaccine supplies. Hilton said she is sympathetic to the public’s concerns, particularly around the process for setting appointments for those over the age of 80.

“We’ve heard you loud and clear and we’ve added additional human resources to assist with making those calls and the team will begin working 12-hour shifts today, right through the weekend and then into next week…The calls will begin at 9 a.m. and up until 9 p.m. daily.” 

This week saw the opening of new vaccine clinics, including a location in Wellesley village. That followed the opening Friday of a site at the Langs Community Health Centre in Cambridge. Next Monday will see the opening of the region’s largest vaccination clinic at 66 Pinebush Road in Cambridge.

“Grand River Hospital, in partnership with Cambridge Memorial Hospital and other community partners, is overseeing the operation and staffing of this vaccination clinic,” said Hilton. “The broader vaccination clinic at 435 The Boardwalk in Waterloo will be moving into the larger space to allow for more vaccinations beginning on March 29, and will be expanding hours of operation as well.

“Planning is still underway for other vaccination locations throughout Waterloo Region including primary care sites to serve North Dumfries, Elmira and other geographies,” she added.

Vickie Murray of Grand River Hospital said there have been some people showing up at sites looking to receive shots, whether due to confusion or by intent, claiming to be in a priority group, adding it can be difficult to determine eligibility.  

There have been 48,036 doses administered in the region, covering just 5.8 per cent of the population. Some 13,716 individuals have been fully vaccinated, a total of 2.3 per cent.

In neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, the health unit has administered 21,405 people have been vaccinated, covering 8.4 per cent of the population.

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