Thousands of doses of the Pfizer vaccine are arriving in Haldimand-Norfolk each week but it’s still not enough for Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shankar Nesathurai.
“By the end of this month and by the end of next month, we won’t have vaccinated everyone we would like,” Nesathurai said, “so we have to prioritize.
“We can only vaccinate people to the extent that we have vaccine.”
The doctor said the health unit received about 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Feb. 17, expects another 3,000 doses this week and 2,000 doses during the first week of March.
“If we had 1,000 vaccines (a day) we would distribute 1,000 a day. It’s attainable based on the infrastructure we currently have. We want to distribute them as soon as possible.”
Nesathurai said the shortage means the health unit must continue to follow the provincial framework strictly until the supply pipeline opens up further.
“Everyone who wants the vaccine will get vaccinated. My hope is by this summer, we will be able to offer the vaccine to everybody who wants it.”
Because the senior population is the one most associated with a fatal outcome from the virus, Nesathurai said that’s the group that must be addressed first.
He said residents in long-term care and retirement homes have received first and second doses and the vaccine is now being offered to staff at those facilities and essential visitors who provide substantive or critical care to a resident in such a facility.
“As we go through these next 10 days, we hope to vaccinate healthcare workers who are likely to interact with people who have COVID-19, then the people above 80 who live in the community and healthcare workers in other congregate settings.
“We also want to try to vaccinate people who receive home-care services and those in Indigenous communities.”
The health unit has a process to reach out, through family health teams, to the majority of area residents who are older than 80.
The doctor said there is no protocol in place to help those who may have compromised health move forward in the process because the mass vaccination system is designed for the population and not for an individual.
“It’s hard to make individual clinical decisions for 110,000 people. We have to weigh how we can use our resources for the largest possible number of people.”
He outlined the many people who are or will be involved in the vaccination program, including the area hospitals and family health teams, emergency medical services, family doctors and all those who staff nursing and retirement homes.
“All are doing their part and we need to continue to work together.”
Nesathurai said while there has been no allocation of vaccine for migrant farm-workers, that group of about 4,000 men and women working in Haldimand-Norfolk is a concern. Since 200 to 250 of the workers have tested positive in the area they have carried a “burden” of cases but will likely get vaccinated within the age framework suggested by the province, he said.
Haldimand-Norfolk has seen substantially reduced numbers of new cases in recent weeks with several recent days reporting no new cases at all.
But, at least one resident has tested positive for one of the concerning variants of coronavirus, said Nesathurai, and he expects to see more of those tests soon.
“It’s likely the lockdown had a significant impact on the number of cases we had and now we’re likely to see an increasing number of cases as the days progress.”