Vaccines roll out to health care workers
“I am very happy to report on the status of COVID vaccination in Simcoe Muskoka,” said Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner in his first media update of 2021.
More than 4,300 people in the area have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and are awaiting the second.
Vaccines in the north part of the region are being administered in partnership with Royal Victoria Hospital (including Clearview Township) and the south Simcoe area is being administered by Southlake Regional Health Centre.
Gardner reported the RVH site is the fourth most active site in the province, and 600 vaccines were given on Monday alone, the highest daily number to date.
“We are doing well and we are committed to moving at a pace that would allow us to use up the vaccine that we get, and as we get more using it up expeditiously to arrange for protection. At this point in time we’re focussing very much on the staff at long-term care facilities, retirement homes and in hospitals.”
At this time they are working with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine – the one that must be stored at the lowest temperature – and they are not able to move it off site so those receiving the vaccine must attend
“We may very soon get authorization to move it off site at which time we’d be looking at how best to cover for the needs of the residents in long-term care facilities. It’s certainly important that we be able to get to those facilities to be able to vaccinate residents who are the most high risk individuals in our community,” said Gardner.
“At this point in time vaccination – the approach to vaccination and the type of vaccine that we would be getting – is very much in flux from the province so I wouldn’t be able to give any detailed information at this point in time about what type of vaccine we’re getting and when in the future.”
He said the health unit is waiting for clarity from the province but knows that there will be priority given to people who live in Indigenous communities, those who receive home care and live in other congregate settings.
“As time unfolds and we get more vaccine and more direction from the province we will need to expand out to those groups and find ways of reaching them and I am looking down the line later in the year when we would be able to work with other community partners such as primary care and community pharmacies, EMS and others to open up provision of vaccine to an ever wider circle of people and eventually to everybody. I know the province has an expectation that we would reach most people by August so that’s the timeline that we are working with and we take our duty to achieve this very seriously,” said Gardner. “Once again, I’d really like to commend RVH for the excellent partnership that we’ve had to date to be able to move fairly quickly through the vaccine that we’ve received to date.”
Incidence rate 68 cases per 100,000 population and time will tell how the holiday season and possible gatherings will affect the numbers. There have been 443 new cases in the region, bringing the toal number of active cases to 1,188.
“As time unfolds, we will have a more detailed assessment and tallying of the number of cases and the degree to which they are associated with gatherings,” said Gardner.
In the meantime, he reminds the public that all the precautions remain in effect including mask use, social distancing, and essential travel only.
The control measures, said Gardner, have essentially knocked out the regular flu.
He said there have been no reported cases of laboratory confirmed influenza in Simcoe-Muskoka and hardly any in the province.
“The fact that these measures are proving to be so effective with influenza – and a high uptake with vaccination for influenza – it really says a lot about just how communicable, how transmissible COVID-19 is that we are still seeing a rise in cases and a high number of cases despite the control measure that we’ve done to date and really speaks to the importance of doubling your efforts to control COVID-19 in your daily lives…, said Gardner. “We’ve got light at the end of the tunnel, with the vaccine, but it’s going to take months to be able get enough vaccine and reach everybody.”
There are no public COVID-19 vaccine centres open across the province at this time.