Vaccine coming very soon for long-term care residents: public health

To date WDGPH has administered over 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine

GUELPH – Public health officials are hopeful that by the end of this week, they will be able to offer COVID-19 vaccinations for residents at long-term care homes in the region.

But it all depends on the arrival of 3,700 doses of the Moderna vaccine.

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) spokesperson Danny Williamson said on Jan. 12 the shipment of Moderna vaccines is expected very soon, but nothing is certain given the “pretty complex” vaccine global supply chain.

He explained public health officials can confirm shipment details just 24 to 48 hours out, making weekly predictions difficult.

As of the end of the day on Jan. 12, WDGPH had administered 1,019 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. A shipment of 1,950 Pfizer vaccines arrived on Jan. 12 and the original shipment of 975 arrived last week.

Due to storage/transportation requirements of that vaccine, shots are initially only being offered to health care workers at public health’s Guelph office.

It’s the arrival of the Moderna vaccine in particular that will allow public health nurses to vaccinate residents inside long-term care facilities.

Once that happens, facilities will be prioritized based on “who’s most at risk and how fast we can get it to them,” Williamson said.

Currently WDGPH has the capacity to administer 500 shots per day, but delays in vaccine supply mean early numbers have fallen far short of that goal.

It will likely be spring or summer before the general public will be able to get the vaccine, Williamson said.

Until then, public health wants everyone to remain vigilant by staying home, distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands.

“They really do work – and people need to take this seriously,” Williamson said of public health measures.

Provincial plan

The Ontario government hopes to administer 8.5 million vaccinations by the end of phase two of the province’s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Details of phase two were provided by government officials on Jan. 13.

Officials say that the province has “mapped out the next steps for transitioning” into phase two and has adopted an approach to identify the next grounds to receive vaccination as early as March 2021.

The government has also expanded the list of health care providers who can administer the COVID-19 vaccine to try and vaccinate as many people as possible. Additional vaccination sites will include municipally run sites, hospitals, mobile vaccination sites, pharmacies, clinics, primary care settings and community locations such as health centres and aboriginal health access centres.

“This will help meet the unprecedented demand in the number of people who will be getting vaccinated. It will also increase access to the vaccine for all Ontarians, whether they reside in a remote fly-in community or a large urban centre,” states a government press release.

The province is encouraging health care professionals who are able to administer the vaccine to register and apply to do so through Ontario’s Matching Portal. Those eligible to administer the vaccine include nurse practitioners, registered nurses and registered practical nurses, along with pharmacists, pharmacy students, interns and pharmacy technicians.

Groups eligible to receive the vaccine in phase two will include:

  • older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
  • individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
  • frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, teachers, food processing industry); and
  • individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.

The province expects this phase to be completed by July.

Phase one, which is currently underway is focused on vaccinating residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes.

The goal of this phase to is have all first doses of the vaccine administered by Feb. 15. Vaccination of long-term care home staff and residents in the four “hot spot” areas – Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor-Essex – is expected to be completed by Jan. 21.

The Ontario government says phase three, which is when the general public can begin to receive the vaccine, could begin as early as August 2021, pending on availability of vaccines.

“We are prepared for the next phase in our vaccine distribution plan, but with limited supplies, our focus will be on vaccinating our seniors and frontline essential workers,” said Christine Elliott, minister of health.

“When Ontario receives sufficient doses of vaccines, we will ensure that every person who wants to be vaccinated will receive it. Until then, everyone must continue to follow the public health guidelines and stay home, stay safe and save lives.”

As of Jan. 13, over 144,000 doses of the vaccines have been administered at 196 locations across the province.

-With files from Mike Wilson