CK health officials wait to be called on to receive COVID-19 vaccines

The main entrance sign at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. (File photo by Jake Kislinsky)

As some areas around Chatham-Kent started to administer COVID-19 vaccines to frontline health care workers, local health officials are waiting to hear when Chatham-Kent will be called on.

Windsor Regional Hospital and London Health Sciences Centre started administering the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech this week.

The Moderna vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Wednesday. Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s vaccine does not need to be kept in -80 C temperatures and is expected to be easier to transport.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said an easy to transport vaccine would be ideal when it comes time to vaccinating residents at longterm care homes.

“The company [behind Pfizer’s vaccine] has expressed concern that too much movement — we call it the jiggle factor — may be detrimental to the vaccine so until further investigations are done, and they are being done, it’s suggested that the vaccine can only be used out of its destination where it is delivered so that really limits moving it around to lots of different areas,” he said. “It would be easier to send teams to the [longterm care] institutions than to roll everybody out and do that at a different location.”

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance President and CEO Lori Marshall said the CKHA, the Public Health Unit and various partners are working collaboratively in order to prepare for when Chatham-Kent is approved to receive shipments of a vaccine.

Marshall said a location as to where vaccines will be administered or stored has not been determined.

“We probably may need to look at multiple locations or ways to take a vaccine from a central spot out to other areas,” said Marshall. “Certainly from a storage perspective of the vaccine, we need to make sure that wherever it is, it’s a secure environment that has backup power … There will be different considerations that will have to go into where the vaccine is stored and to make sure that wherever it’s chosen to administer it that it’s accessible.”

Marshall said the field hospital at St. Clair College that was set-up at the beginning of the first wave of the pandemic is still available for use should an overflow of patients occur.

“The government did approve us for an additional 20 beds that we have added on-site in the hospital so we believe that that capacity will be sufficient at this stage to respond to any surges, either inĀ  Chatham-Kent or if we’re asked to support other hospitals,” said Marshall. “But the field hospital remains an option.”

Meantime, there’s another COVID-19 outbreak at Riverview Gardens long term care home in Chatham. Riverview Gardens had its first outbreak from December 1 until December 19 when two staff members tested positive for the virus. Chatham-Kent Public Health announced the outbreak on Wednesday when they reported six new cases of COVID-19 and reduced the number of active cases by two to 40. The health unit said eight more people have recovered but the outbreaks at St. Anne Catholic School in Blenheim and an unidentified workplace continue.