COVID-19 vaccine goes on the road to LTC residents

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The COVID-19 immunization of residents of long-term care (LTC) and retirement homes (RH) in Simcoe Muskoka is now underway.
The immunization program began Monday in long-term care homes following the recent decision by the provincial government that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be safely transported to the homes. Retirement home residents will begin to receive the vaccine next week.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on both the residents and employees in long-term care and being able to offer the protection this vaccine provides to those who are the most vulnerable is a critical milestone,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “We are hoping everyone who opts for the vaccine within our LTC and RH communities to have received it over the next two weeks.”
Cheers erupted at Barrie’s Victoria Village Manor on Monday as 80-year-old Pat Sinclair (pictured), a former nurse, became the region’s first long-term care resident to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m thrilled to be able to do this. I’m hoping it gives me and my family that feeling of ‘we’re okay, we’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this,’” said Sinclair.
Through a pilot immunization program on Monday, 111 residents from Victoria Village Manor and 67 residents at Oak Terrace Long-Term Care Home in Orillia received the vaccine.
“This will be a game changer for long-term care and congregate settings. It will level the playing field,” said Bill Krever, Victoria Village president and CEO. “As the number of COVID-19 cases increases in this region, the availability of this vaccine to our residents couldn’t have come at a better time.”
To date the vaccine has only been administered to priority groups by invitation at the COVID-19 Immunization Clinic in Barrie.
“As COVID cases continue to surge, both across the province and in Simcoe Muskoka, we are working hard to get the vaccine to those who need it most, as safely, quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Janice Skot, RVH’s president and chief executive officer. “By focusing on the most vulnerable individuals and those most at risk, we will save lives.”
Supply of the vaccine remains limited and at this time is being offered by appointment only to priority groups identified by the provincial government, including residents, staff and essential caregivers from congregate living settings (e.g. long-term care homes and retirement homes), as well as prioritized hospital workers.
The public is reminded that during the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine it’s important that everyone continue follow public health measures to reduce and prevent transmission of the virus: Wear a mask, physically distance from those outside your household, wash your hands frequently, stay home if you are sick, and get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms.
For more information, visit simcoemuskokahealth.org or call Health Connection to speak with a public health professional weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520).

This week’s highlights 

• There have been more than 8,600 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered in Simcoe Muskoka (not including the South Simcoe LHIN), mainly to health care workers in local hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes. This includes over 250 individuals that have received both of the required doses of the vaccine. In addition, 431 long-term care residents have received their first dose.

• An advisory committee is coming together this week with representation from Indigenous communities, primary care, pharmacies, long-term care, paramedics and other health care services to create a plan for rolling out the vaccine to priority groups and eventually to the entire community, hopefully by August.

• Incidence rate for Simcoe County has reached 81 cases per 100,000 population. Most COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka are from the Barrie and South Simcoe areas.

• Holiday gatherings are now accounting for 21 per cent of cases. Transmission has been traced back to gatherings of as many as 22 people.

• Local hospitals are accepting transfer cases from the GTA, which are at capacity.

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