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Health unit preaches patience amid surge of residents – young and old – booking COVID-19 vaccines

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With an influx of residents – young and old – suddenly able to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments, the Sarnia-area health unit’s online portal has become a popular destination.

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So officials are preaching patience.

“Sometimes our booking system is a little bit like Ticketmaster, but just keep trying,” Dr. Sudit Ranade, Lambton’s medical officer of health, said Thursday. “There will be more availability over time.”

Ranade said many appointments have been snapped up by parents and guardians of five- to 11-year-olds, who became eligible earlier this week – “I think in the first day we had over a thousand,” he said – but pointed out several Sarnia-Lambton residents are also eligible for third-dose booster shots.

“So we have 40,000 people who are suddenly … eligible for an immunization,” he said. “That’s a lot of people to come through the system at once, so people will need to be patient.”

Along with the more than 9,000 youngsters, about 30,000 local residents are eligible for booster shots based predominately on age and health conditions.

Ranade said they’ve received a shipment of the Health Canada-approved vaccine for children younger than 12 and are ready to ship it out to a “number” of different clinics, including the family-friendly sessions set for Lambton College’s event centre .

For more information on vaccines for local children ages five to 11, visit bit.ly/32r6ult .

How the health unit reports local vaccine stats will “gradually” change due to the influx of eligible children, Ranade added.

As of Thursday, 81.7 per cent of eligible Sarnia-Lambton residents – ages 12 and older – have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine and were fully immunized, the health unit reported.  Exactly 84.4 per cent had at least one of the 196,081 shots administered by the health unit, hospitals, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

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A total of 15 new local COVID-19 cases were also reported Thursday by the health unit.

“There’s a handful of cases any day, sometimes upwards of 15 – maybe even more,” Ranade said. “Those cases do take a lot of followup because people do a lot of different things socially and so we have a lot of people to contact for any given case.”

Of the 4,343 cases since the pandemic began, 39 were active while 4,229 were resolved. The latest seven-day incidence rate of confirmed cases in the region was 35.1 per 100,000 people. Ontario’s was 29.9.

The health unit was dealing with a single active outbreak at Bluewater Health.

“It seems to be fairly stable,” Ranade said of the outbreak.

Six COVID-positive patients were being treated in hospital, Bluewater Health reported.

The community’s death toll was still 75 while 60 people have died in local hospital.

tbridge@postmedia.com

@ObserverTerry

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