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Vaccination rates remain low in the region

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the region’s medical officer of health, this week received her first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine at her neighbourhood pharmacy. [Submitted]

The Region of Waterloo is closing in on having 30 per cent of adults receive at least one vaccine dose, expecting that expanded availability at community locations such as pharmacies will boost the still relatively low numbers.

At midweek, 151,575 doses had been administered, representing 29.2 per cent of eligible residents over the age of 18. Those fully vaccinated represent less than three per cent of the population, however.

The region reached the 25 per cent mark a week ago, a milestone for the vaccination task force, said Jennifer Davis, the group’s lead of command operations during the weekly pandemic briefing April 16.

“One positive that has come from our efforts is that as of yesterday we had 25 per cent of those eligible residents in Waterloo Region 18 years or older that have now received their first shot, so that is a great thing but we have a long way to go,” she said of the region’s goal of inoculating at least 75 per cent of residents.

Efforts continue to be hampered by supply problems.

“The current delay in vaccine delivery is going to have an impact on our vaccination efforts in the coming weeks,” said Davis. “We have been opening clinics to build our capacity to vaccinate more residents of Waterloo Region as quickly as possible. We’re ready to get vaccines in arms as soon as we get them.”

More locations such as pharmacies are now onboard with administering the AstraZeneca vaccine, with eligibility this week lowered to those 40 years of age and older, down from 55 last week. Locations included the Shoppers Drug Mart in Elmira and Breslau Pharmacy & Wellness Centre. Shots are available by appointment.

Although more clinics are opening up and eligibility is increasing, it’s not smooth sailing at this point, said Davis.

“All of this is all positive, but I will remind the community that the vaccine supply in the region does remain unstable.” 

In regards to the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, a reduction in supply is expected and may disrupt the rate of distribution in the region. According to Davis, that decrease and the ongoing supply issues with the Moderna vaccine “is one of the things that we continually reassess on a daily basis to make sure that we are using vaccine up as quickly as we possibly can, without having to cancel appointments that are already booked. What that does mean, though, is that in the next few weeks, people may see that one of our larger clinics needs to close.”  

Davis says the goal right now is to use up all vaccine in case a closure of a clinic would become necessary.

“I just want to assure anyone that if you see a clinic, there’s only one reason the clinic would be closed. And that is because we have no vaccine. So, our priority will be to use up every amount of vaccine that we have in the fridges.”

The taskforce continues to move through the Phase 2 eligibility groups and are continuing to ask the citizens of the district to continue to following public health measures even after being vaccinated fully or in-part.

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