Final clinic held at MSS, access to vaccines continues

MANITOULIN – Tuesday, August 30 was the last vaccination clinic held at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS). Co-executive officers of the Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) Tim Vine and Paula Fields were on hand for the final MSS clinic. “Paula and I attended to say thanks to the volunteers with a card and a gift card to the many numbers of people for their efforts and their dedication. This program would not run without volunteers, and it is a testament to the Island as to how many people across Manitoulin Island came together to benefit everyone,” Mr. Vine said. 

A post on the MHC Facebook page last Wednesday read, “This past Tuesday was the last mass vaccination clinic on Manitoulin Island. We couldn’t be prouder of Family Health Teams and volunteers that supported them. The rate of first vaccinations across the province as of September 1 is 74.4 percent. As a result of the hard work of the Family Health Teams (FHT), the dedicated volunteers and commitment of our community, Manitoulin Island finished out the clinics with a first dose rate of 88 percent. And congratulations to our Indigenous partners for their successful vaccination clinics.”

The mass clinics were run by primary care personnel from FHTs in Assiginack, Northeastern Manitoulin and the Manitoulin Central in Mindemoya. It was a bittersweet realization for the volunteers who had manned the clinics at MSS, the Missionary Church in Mindemoya and the recreation centre in Little Current, said Sandra Pennie, executive director of Assiginack FHT and team leader for the Island vaccine clinics. “We’re very thankful to everyone for helping and supporting us in this, and I want to include Ogimaa Linda Debassige and M’Chigeeng First Nation. Having those spaces enabled us to do the 900 dose clinics. That’s how we got through all the people. It’s not really over though, it’s just going to be different.”

“We’re hoping that moving forward, we still have all that support and I’m sure we will,” said Ms. Pennie. “With kids returning to school, it was necessary to wind down the vaccination clinics at MSS. Public health will be offering vaccines out of their office in Mindemoya with the support of volunteers and probably family health team members until we figure out the best and safest way to run FHT clinics and vaccine clinics at the same time.”

Meetings are ongoing between public health and Island FHTs to determine how vaccine services can be safely provided at FHTs. There are contracts as well as transportation and storage logistics to consider that are quite different from flu shot clinics held at FHTs. Whether there will be smaller mass clinics on the Island or vaccine clinics at FHTs has not yet been confirmed. 

“After six months of giving the vaccine, we’ve learned that it’s not that simple,” said Ms. Pennie. “We want to do it in the safest manner and we will have to follow public health guidelines that are still being developed. Talks are still ongoing but the FHTs are glad to work together with public health.”

The vaccine bus was at two locations last Friday and will continue to come to Manitoulin, Ms. Pennie said. There will be third doses to administer for those vulnerable populations as well as vaccinations for 12- to 17-year-olds and those who have not yet received first or second doses. It’s important to note that walk-ins are available at the vaccine buses, she noted. “We found that Island people liked the option of just showing up without pre-booking an appointment. We were lucky when we had the doses they would always send extra for walk-in capacity. That’s also available at the buses.”

Vaccines offered through public health at their Mindemoya office are available by appointment only at this time. Appointments can be booked through the online portal at covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/ or by phone at 1-800-708-2505. Scheduled dates are Mondays: September 13, September 20 and September 27. 

Alternatively, Island pharmacies continue to offer doses of the vaccine. Please contact your local pharmacy for details and appointments.