CK readies for mass COVID-19 vaccinations (GALLERY + VIDEO)

Chatham Mass Vaccination Clinic at the John D. Bradley Centre on February 22, 2021 (Photo by Allanah Wills)

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is preparing for a ramped-up COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

A section of the John D. Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham has been transformed into a mass vaccination clinic. The clinic will open its doors on Tuesday by appointment only and will allow staff and caregivers of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes to begin receiving their first dose of the vaccine.

According to Vaccine Clinic Site Lead Willi Kirenko, over 700 doses will be administered over the next few days.

“We’re very excited about that,” she said. “Those are our highest priority people, not just the residents but the people who care for them and their essential caregivers. They need protection first and were very excited to be offering [it.]”

Meanwhile, residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will begin to receive their second dose of the vaccine this week as well through mobile outreach teams.

The clinic offers a streamlined approach to get most patients in and out within half an hour and features over a dozen vaccination stations and a large post-vaccination observation area.

The municipality is currently in Phase 1:A of its immunization plan, which includes residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care homes, alternative level of care patients in hospitals as well as highest priority and very high priority health care workers. Phase 1:A is expected to wrap up by March.

Phase 1:B will last from March to April and include the vaccination of adults over the age of 80, other staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and senior congregate care settings, remaining high priority health care workers, adults who receive chronic home care and Indigenous adults.

“Phase 1:B will start March to April, ao that’s coming quickly,” said Kirenko. “As long as we get enough vaccine products, we intend to ramp up services here so that we’re operating 12 hours a day and aiming for 1,000 shots a day.”

Chatham-Kent Vaccine Phases (Courtesy Chatham-Kent Public Health)

The general population in Chatham-Kent is on track to start being immunized in April during Phase 2, beginning with those aged 60 to 79 and individuals under the age of 60 who are considered extremely vulnerable. Phase 3, set from June to August, will include the remaining population aged 16 to 59 who have not yet been vaccinated.

All phases are subject to change based on vaccine availability and direction from the province. With enough doses currently secured by the municipality to get through the next few days of vaccinations, Kirenko said they are hoping and expecting there will be a routine supply arriving from here on out.

“That’s what’s going to allow us to build up and build capacity,” she said.

The clinic is being done in partnership with Chatham-Kent Emergency Medical Services, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Chatham-Kent Ontario Health Team and Chatham-Kent Public Health. Organizers of the clinic will also be bringing back retired nurses to assist with immunizations.

According to Kirenko, it took months of work and planning to make it all possible.

“We couldn’t have done it without the partnerships of all of our partners,” she said. “If one of those key pieces of the puzzle was missing, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Although it may be several months before the majority of Chatham-Kent residents are vaccinated against the virus, Kirenko is urging everyone to be patient with the process.

“Please wait your turn,” she said. “Your turn is coming, we promise your turn is coming. You will be invited to make an appointment when it’s your turn. For now, we have to get those highest priority people done.”