Almost one year after Ontario announced its first state of emergency measures to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the province has announced a four-week ‘Emergency Brake’ shutdown.
“We do so much want to get back into our soccer teams and baseball teams and family picnics, etc., so I can only ask people to say ‘this is a marathon,’” said medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock.
“It’s taking a long time. It’s been tough. We’re not there yet and we’ve just got to keep moving one step at a time.”
There is more light at the end of the tunnel than there was a year ago, she said. And that light is the vaccine.
“The vaccines have shown good effectiveness, so hopefully… we will be able to battle them (COVID-19 virus and its variants) if we all get the vaccine,” said Lock.
For most eligible residents in Tillsonburg, getting the vaccine still means travelling out of town.
When the province announced last week that three Oxford County pharmacies would begin booking appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible people age 55 older, Tillsonburg was not on the list.
“The province selected two pharmacies in Ingersoll, the Pharmasave and Remedy’s RX, and also the Shoppers Drug Mart in Woodstock,” said Lock.
“More pharmacies are expected to be added to that list in our region, making it easier for all of you to get that important dose of your vaccine.”
When the Woodstock vaccination clinic opened the week of March 15, the health unit was administering up to 350 vaccines per day. They are aiming to get that up to 500 or more per day.
“Once we maximize our efficiency then we will look at expanding hours,” said Lock, noting that some vaccine is now going to hospitals for individuals with the highest risk medical conditions.
“We are also going to start a pop-up clinic in Tillsonburg before long, which we are going to be running in conjunction with our EMS partners.
“My staff informed me that they are in consultation with EMS and there are some operational issues that we need to sort out internally. So our aim is some time in April. I would think it might be the second half.”
The fact that Tillsonburg should be getting a pop-up vaccination clinic in the second half of April did not impact the decision on which pharmacies were initially selected to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The decision of the location of the pharmacies was made by the Province,” said Lock, “and what the criteria they used to make those decisions is unknown to us. Public health units were provided an opportunity to advise on the locations of the pharmacies – we did not recommend the locations, currently, that did receive the vaccine. So this was done outside of any decision-making that we were involved in.”
Southwestern Public Health has recently received Moderna vaccine, in addition to the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, which is being distributed at the mass immunization clinics in Woodstock and St. Thomas.
“Now that we have some Moderna, our ability to be mobile with the vaccine is also improving, so we hope to be working with some of our primary care practices to get them some Moderna,” said Lock. “As well, we are going to be looking carefully at how we can identify and reach our homebound citizens through our mobile method.”