It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s safe.
Preparing for the region’s first clinic doses of COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday, Southwestern Public Health led media and local politicians on a tour of the Woodstock and St. Thomas vaccination clinics last Thursday.
“We’re really excited to showcase our MIC (Mass Immunization Clinic) today,” said Mary Van Den Neucker, Program Manager, Southwestern Public Health, at Woodstock’s Goff Hall last Thursday.
“We have made every effort to ensure that social distancing is going to be maintained throughout this entire process,” said Van Den Neucker. “We will ensure that everyone has a face mask and we will be sanitizing their hands upon arrival.”
Clients will come to one of three screening booths where they will be asked if they have an appointment. If yes, Van Den Neucker said they will be asked if they have a completed ‘screening and consent form.’ If not, it can be filled out in a separate area nearby, with help if needed, followed by some basic screening questions.
Inside Goff Hall, the screening and consent forms (which include questions about past allergic reactions and possible health issues) will be checked over and registration completed.
In the main hall, clients will be seated in a staging area before being directed to one of 24 pods (cubicle areas, which are all clearly numbered) in the central area of the hall – spaced to maintain as much confidentiality as possible.
“We have immunizers who will be utilizing these carts,” said Van Den Neucker, noting each will have an iPod so they can quickly access the documentation for each client.
“The individual will come and actually sit down. The immunizer will confirm their ID, ensuring that they have consent, and go through it and screen if they have any underlying medical conditions that may cause an issue with them receiving the vaccine.”
If they do, medical support will be on staff that can be called to review the case.
A Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine injection is given and the immunizer moves the cart to the next client. By the time they have moved to a third client, the 15-minute waiting period for the first client will be completed.
“So we’ll go back and check how they are feeling,” said Van Den Neucker. “If they’re not feeling well we will do an additional 15 minutes of checks, so they will be moved to a recovery area. Staff will monitor them for another 15 minutes to ensure that they are okay to check out.”
Which means, if you are not going to the recovery area, you will be going to one of three checkout kiosks after the first 15-minute wait.
“Once they are done, it’s sanitized, and then the staff will bring someone else in from the staging area.”
Southwestern Public Health staff will be on site to help direct people to each area.
At checkout, clients will receive a receipt of the vaccine, and the second dose will be booked automatically with date and time 112 days (16 weeks) later. The exit is on the far side of the hall.
“What you can see is that there is a very linear process here,” said Van Den Neucker. “There is not a lot of crossed paths for anyone.
The first week will only see a limited number of vaccines at the two Oxford-Elgin clinics.
“We just have the one, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently, but we will be getting Moderna. As the other ones start to rise, there will be other modalities to which we can provide those. And other individuals, like primary health care, family physicians and pharmacies will be able to actually dispense those… so I think you’ll see in the few months coming up that it’s really going to ramp up. And that there’s going to be different modalities which will support the entire Oxford County and Elgin-St. Thomas, so that we have more people vaccinated and more options for vaccination as well.”
Eventually they will have additional time slots available for day, evening or weekend vaccine appointments.
“This next week is really, just as Mary said, is about getting our feet wet in the process,” said Cynthia St. John, CEO, Southwestern Public Health, and fine-tuning the system.
For the week of March 15th, eligible clients will be 80-plus (born 1941 or earlier), or Indigenous 55-plus, as well as some health care workers.
Booking for the second week of vaccinations (beginning March 22) opened March 15th from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The first week of bookings was filled within three hours.
“To book an appointment online, go to covidvaccinelm.ca or to book an appointment by phone call 226-289-3560,” said Tillsonburg Mayor Molnar at the March 8 council meeting.
“You are able to attend either site, you are not limited to the Oxford County site. Both Woodstock and St. Thomas are available, and I would reconfirm again that the municipality is working diligently to ensure that local access is available through various satellite locations, when new more transportable (vaccines) are available,” said Molnar, noting there are currently four approved vaccines. “Some of these have different properties relative to how they can be stored and transported, so some of that will weigh in on accessibility to the vaccines as well.”
“What is Southwestern Public Health’s suggestion to residents that don’t have transportation if they’re trying to get the vaccine?” asked Councillor Chris Parker at the council meeting. “Are they just supposed to wait until a satellite area is set up here?”
“I think maybe we could look at how we have dedicated, inclusive programs already in this community, and that assisting in getting people safely to and from a vaccination site might be something that we could be proactive and working in as well,” said Molnar. “Whether that’s through social agencies in the community, volunteer groups, or our own transportation network, there are already ways in this community that are delivering people to services further away than Woodstock or St. Thomas.
“I believe at lot of it has to do with availability of vaccine, and once there’s available amounts I would like to hope to see local clinics or use of pharmacies, something similar to what we do with the flu shot,” said Councillor Deb Gilvesy. “I know that moving the vaccine is a logistical problem… but hopefully some of these things will be worked out in the future.
“The vaccine was mobile into Tillsonburg – they brought it into LTC homes (eg. Maple Manor on Jan. 12) and to places like Harvest (Crossing Retirement Community) as well, so one would hope that there is some mobility there, that if they can do all the local long term care homes that they would be able to do local residents as well.”
“Exactly,” nodded Molnar, noting Tillsonburg has the capacity, plans, property and assets in the community that can be utilized for that purpose. “I think we’re looking forward to that as soon as possible.”
And in the interim, Molnar said, “What can we do as a community to assist those that have identified barriers, so they have equitable access?”