Local long-term care residents to be vaccinated

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A limited amount of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to be coming to the Southwestern Public Health Unit’s Oxford-Elgin region’s long-term care homes some time this week.

“We hope to be putting vaccine in arms of residents in our long term care homes this week – towards the end of the week,” medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock said Monday.

In December, long-term care workers and some hospital staff in the region had the opportunity to be vaccinated after travelling to London. Residents of long-term care homes, however, did not have that option.

“The vaccination rollout is underway, including vaccinations for long term care workers in our region,” Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman said Friday in an email. “All of our long-term care staff have been given the opportunity to go get their vaccination at the vaccine centre in London.

“The province has also recently received doses of the Moderna vaccine, which will be better suited for the residents of our long-term care homes because it can be administered on-site,” added Hardeman. “The Pfizer vaccine that is currently being given to staff has to be kept at such cold temperatures, that it is distributed from sites where it can be stored safely, such as London.”

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Pfizer mobility changes this week.

“We have received information… now that the Pfizer vaccine is allowed some greater mobility, moving it from place to place than was allowed before, we are allotted some of the Pfizer vaccine which is being delivered to the London Health Sciences Centre,” said Dr. Lock. “And our staff will be picking that up and delivering some of those doses to the long term care homes within our region.

“We are prioritizing long term care homes in outbreak.”

That includes Maple Manor in Tillsonburg, she said, as one of the higher priorities.

“Staff from our health unit are getting training today (Monday) in London on the specifics of what is required to transport it.”

The initial Pfizer doses will be given to long-term care residents who have not tested positive.

“At the moment, the direction is ‘if you have had COVID-19 and tested positive, then you don’t get the vaccine right now. That does not mean that you can’t have the vaccine if you’ve had COVID, it’s more that if you’ve had COVID you have immunity against COVID for at least a number of months into the future. So you don’t actually need the vaccine right away to protect you from further COVID. So because doses are limited at the moment – and we don’t have a lot of COVID vaccine – we’re giving it to people who haven’t had COVID yet.”

Later in the year, however, Lock said those who had COVID will be able to be vaccinated.

“If you had COVID, the vaccine is not going to do you any harm. If anything, it will probably boost your immunity a bit. But you don’t need it right away because you are naturally immune from your infection.

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“So we’re saying we’ve got to save the vaccine for those vulnerable people, those older people who have not had infection, and they really need to get immunity via the vaccine.”

Moderna doses are coming, she said, but there was a minimal supply initially and they were assigned to highest risk areas – areas with the greatest needs such as Windsor-Essex and Toronto.

“We have not received any allotments for the Moderna vaccine, and we have not yet received any information as to when it will be coming,” said Lock.

More allotments are expected, but the health unit is waiting to hear from the Health Ministry as to when Moderna will come to Oxford-Elgin.

“We’re all standing ready.”

As of Monday, Tillsonburg had 119 active COVID-19 cases, including a substantial number at the Maple Manor long-term care facility, which had 80 of its 90 residents test positive for COVID.

Lock said the ‘per cent positivity,’ that is the percentage of tests that come back positive, is going up. And that definitely points to transmission of COVID within the Tillsonburg community – not just at Maple Manor.

“COVID is in our community, and people need to behave as if anyone around them could have COVID at any time. It could be your neighbour. It could be someone down the street. It could be someone at the shop you attend, so act defensively.”

cabbott@postmedia.com