COVID-19 vaccine roll out announced in Chatham-Kent

Fairfield Park resident Audrey Clare, 87, receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. February 13, 2021. (Submitted photo)

The board of health in Chatham-Kent has released its plan to vaccinate residents of the municipality.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said the John D. Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham is being set up for a mass vaccination clinic where large volumes of health care workers and the general public will receive vaccines.

“I toured that last Friday and I was very impressed with the entire set up and all of the work that was done there and I really think they’re ready to go,” said Colby.

Colby said the WISH Centre could be used as an alternate vaccination site, if needed.

Dr. Colby hopes mass vaccinations can start in April and added his team is ready to go. He also said more vaccine should be arriving in Chatham-Kent next week but he is waiting for information from the province. Colby said finishing the first round of doses for staff at local long-term care and high risk retirement homes is “job one” before the second doses begin. Vaccine delays forced the province to direct local public health units to give all first doses to residents of long-term care, high-risk retirement, and First Nation elder care homes. So far, 914 total doses have been administered in Chatham-Kent. He said residents were done first because of the low supply of doses received in the area.

Public Health Director Teresa Bendo reported to the board on Wednesday that the local health unit is also considering additional smaller pop-up clinics in smaller communities to provide better accessibility because the municipality is such  a large rural geographic area where transportation is a significant barrier to accessing services. Bendo said the vaccination plan also includes local mobile outreach and a strategy for pharmacies and doctors’ offices to give out the shots.

The mobile team is made up of paramedics and CK Public Health staff to provide “a nimble outreach service” to groups that have unique needs, such as congregate living, shelters, the homeless population, chronic home care clients, and the urban Indigenous population.

“These approaches will be co-created by this team and the groups they are to serve. Staffing considerations for these clinics will be based on the population to be served, location, and available supports,” wrote Bendo. “The Social Determinants of Health nurse from CK Public Health will act as a subject matter expert and partner with the situation tables of the United Way to facilitate equitable access to vaccinations for these groups.”

Chatham-Kent has 28 pharmacies and they have the ability and capacity to administer vaccines on site. Someone from the pharmacy sector will join the vaccination team to help develop this part of the plan. Local health care partners will also help with the vaccine. The Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team is expected to develop a strategy for doctors and nurse practitioners to provide vaccinations in-house because they already have an established relationship with patients and are well positioned to immunize in their offices, on-site clinics, family health teams, and community health centres. A physician will also join the team to support the development of this part of the plan.

The following priority populations are a strong consideration for public health vaccination programs and services:

•First Nation communities (Walpole Island which jurisdictionally falls outside of CK, but is closely connected to the community of Wallaceburg within CK, and Delaware Nation at Moraviantown which falls within CK’s health unit catchment area) and urban Indigenous peoples living in communities throughout CK.

•Temporary foreign workers supporting CK’s agricultural industry, newcomers,and immigrants who require access to public health programs and services.

•Low German Speaking populations who require a tailored approach to improve accessibility and effectiveness considering linguistic and cultural barriers.

•Those in social or geographic isolation who face transportation barriers and other health service access issues, those without a primary health care provider, and populations that are transient and under-housed.

•Families/individuals/areas living in low income or who otherwise experience material deprivation or are impacted by social risk factors such as income,employment, gender, stigma.

•Older adults, particularly those living in low income.

CK Public Health said that all residents in Chatham-Kent who want to, and are able to be vaccinated, will be by September 2021. CK Public Health said it is following provincial guidelines for vaccinating its residents.

“As vaccine prioritization and allocations are determined by the Province, local public health units follow the direction set out by the Ministry of Health. Any decisions made at the local level are based on national, provincial, and local recommendations and guidelines, and in consultation with local partners,” said Bendo.

The province’s 3 phase plan is as follows:

Phase 1 – December 2020-March 2021

•First dose long-term care home and high-risk retirement home residents;

•Residents, staff, essential caregivers, and other employees of congregate living settings that provide care for seniors;

•Health care workers, including hospital employees, staff who work or study in hospitals, and other health care personnel;

•Adults in First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities, including remote communities;

•Adult recipients of chronic home health care.

Phase 2 — March 2021-July 2021

•Older adults, beginning with those age 80 and older, and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;

•People who live and work in congregate settings;

•Essential workers;

•Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers;

•Other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater COVID-19 risk.

Phase 3 — August 2021-September 2021

•All eligible Ontarians.

CK Public Health said the vaccine supply is limited in the initial phases but it is being provided to those who are at the highest risk of getting infected or spreading the virus.

“By vaccinating and protecting people in these priority groups as soon as possible, the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks among those who are at greatest risk will be decreased. Timelines for local implementation of the provincial rollout and eligibility associated with each phase continues to evolve based on vaccine availability,” read the report. “CK Public Health is working to ensure that individuals receive the vaccine as soon as they become eligible. Timelines for eligible groups continue to be approximate as vaccine supply becomes available.”

Colby said he’ll be leaning on conventional media to get the word out about the vaccination clinics. He believes up to 70,000 residents who want it and are eligible will be vaccinated.