Southwestern Public Health awaits its first allotment of vaccinations

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Southwestern Public Health is waiting for confirmation of its first COVID-19 vaccine allotments and when they will arrive in Oxford and Elgin Counties.

Amy Pavletic, Southwestern Public Health program manager, speaking on Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar’s weekly social media live-stream Wednesday afternoon, said the health unit will make it their No. 1 priority to administer the vaccines as quickly as possible to the community’s most vulnerable members – residents of long term care homes and retirement homes.

“We have all read that several vaccines for COVID have now been approved by Health Canada, and not only that, they have made their way into our region,” said Pavletic.

A limited number of long term care staff in the region were given the option to get vaccinated in London just before Christmas, and more vaccinations were offered on Dec. 29, with the intention of vaccinating several thousands within the Middlesex-London Health Unit, Huron Perth Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health Unit (Oxford-Elgin) geography within three weeks.

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“We are hopeful that the vaccine shipments into the Province of Ontario begin to become more frequent and more plentiful,” said Pavletic. “We know many people in our communities are waiting eagerly for them.”

Meanwhile, it was announced the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be coming to Brantford-Brant next week. At a media briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, Brant’s acting medical officer of health, said the Brantford/Brant community will be receiving both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which will be given to “priority populations,” including long term care home and high-risk retirement home residents, health care workers and essential caregivers.

“This important news is what we hope will be the beginning of the end of the hold that COVID-19 has had on our lives,” said Urbantke.

Urbantke said the province does not want the health unit to release any further information about the vaccines, including how many doses Brantford-Brant will be receiving.

She said the initial rollout of the vaccine will be done through Brantford General Hospital, the Brant County Health Unit and local paramedics. The health unit is currently working with local long-term care and retirement homes to prioritize those receiving vaccines.

Pavletic said Southwestern Public Health has a page on its website (https://www.swpublichealth.ca/en/my-health/covid-19-vaccine.aspx) dedicated to the Oxford-Elgin region’s COVID-19 immunization strategy, which is updated regularly.

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“Special updates for health care professionals will be distributed starting this week. We are also using our social media to share information as it is confirmed,” said Pavletic.

“Southwestern Public Health is getting ready to get these vaccines in our arms as quickly as we can,” she noted. “It will be a top priority for our community.”

The first vaccine approved in Canada is made by Pfizer.

“The (Pfizer) vaccine is given in two shots, 21 days apart. The first shipment to our region went to London Health Sciences Centre, which is serving as the distribution site for the Pfizer vaccine for long term care homes’ staff from London, Middlesex, Oxford, Elgin, Huron and Perth Counties.

“This vaccine must be kept at very cold temperatures and is difficult to transport, so instead of taking it out to the long term care homes, the staff go to London to be vaccinated. The hospital’s goal is to vaccinate up to 10,000 health care professionals over three weeks. This work is currently underway.”

The next approved vaccine, which is more portable, comes from the pharmaceutical company Moderna, said Pavletic.

“We are awaiting final details but it is likely that this is the vaccine that will be sent out to the community for the vaccination of our most vulnerable community members – residents of long term care homes and retirement homes.

“When we hear confirmation of our vaccine allotment, and when we will get them, Southwestern Public Health will make it our No. 1 priority to administer those vaccines as quickly as possible.”

– with files from Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor

cabbott@postmedia.com