Island’s first ‘mass vaccination’ clinics give the jab to 437 people

Some of the key players in Manitoulin Island’s COVID-19 response team took part in the Saturday clinic. From left are MHC Vice President Clinical Services & Chief Nursing Officer Paula Fields, MHC VP of corporate support services and CFO Tim Vine, Vice-President of the Professional Staff Dr. Mike Bedard and retired paramedic Bill Cranston.

Physicians, nurses, long-term care staff and others

MANITOULIN – The first Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC)-run COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic took place in Mindemoya this past Saturday, February 27, followed by another round in Little Current on Monday, March 1, offering inoculations to long-term care (LTC) staff and essential caregivers, with any excess doses going to the highest priority health care workers according to provincial guidelines.

“It feels amazing to be a part of this. I’m very proud of the entire team, the clinical team, the corporate services team, as well as all the community partners who stepped up in various roles to make sure these days were a success,” MHC Vice President Clinical Services & Chief Nursing Officer Paula Fields told The Expositor Monday afternoon.

Mindemoya Missionary Church is the home for the central Island mass vaccination site and the Little Current-Howland Recreation Centre will host clinics in the northeast. 

Saturday’s program saw 222 people get vaccines, followed by another 215 doses on Monday in Little Current, for a total of 437 over the two days. All doses were the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first one Health Canada green-lit on December 9, 2020.

The vaccine doses travelled from Health Sciences North in Sudbury on the morning of the clinic with a public health nurse.

MHC president and CEO Lynn Foster said she was pleased to be working with partners and public health in this historic achievement.

“I would like to commend (Ms. Fields) for her outstanding leadership and all other MHC team members and community partners who supported her in making this momentous event possible for our community. The light is definitely getting brighter at the end of this COVID tunnel,” she said.

Ms. Fields was not able to estimate what percentage of LTC staff and essential caregivers received their doses but said the majority have had their first shot.

Manitoulin Vaccine Implementation Committee, a group made up of Island health care providers across sectors including both Indigenous and general-population services, is working to organize the distribution of doses after LTC staff and essential caregivers get the shot. The committee is following the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s guidance for prioritizing health care workers after the most urgent people get the vaccine.

Dr. Mike Bedard, Vice-President of the Professional Staff at MHC and a general practitioner at Assiginack Family Health Team, was the first one to receive a shot at the Saturday clinic. Dr. Simone Meikleham was first in line at the Monday clinic in Little Current.

“It’s a miracle, if you think about it when compared to one year ago today,” said Dr. Bedard. “I just want everyone to get the miracle, too; hopefully it won’t be long. I don’t know how I ended up being the first one, maybe it’s because I’m old.”

He said the roll-out across the province has been somewhat clumsy and painfully slow thus far but said he was pleased that the pace was now increasing. He said Island health care teams will be ready to respond when more shots flow.

For now, these two dates were the only mass vaccination clinics scheduled on Manitoulin. The future clinics will depend on Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD)’s vaccine supply availability. Ms. Fields said there may be another clinic coming in the near future.

The vaccination group and public health decided on the two based on their accessibility, centrality and population levels surrounding the locations.

“A big part of it was on the facility, whether we could safely flow people through, because there’s a lot of thought that goes into the different stations,” Ms. Fields said.

When patients arrive, they go through screening, registration, the immunization process and a waiting area to monitor for adverse reactions, followed by a check-out station and a separate exit point.

Both Mindemoya Missionary Church and the Little Current rec centre, which has been set up as a field hospital, had ideal layouts to accommodate safe patient flow.

Those who are eligible to receive a vaccination, for now, will get contacted by their agency (in this case, the health care centres that employ the eligible individuals). Once their space is confirmed on a list of eligible recipients, those individuals get a 1-800 number to call to book a vaccination time.

When the highest-priority vaccinations conclude in the future, Ms. Fields said there would be public communications about mass immunization clinics.

The many people who helped to run the Island’s first mass vaccination clinic at Mindemoya Missionary Church gather for a group photo to mark the historic occasion on Saturday, February 27.

The health care providers who received inoculations on Saturday have been faring well so far, except for some soreness in their arm for the first 24 hours. Second doses are expected in approximately four weeks, said Ms. Fields.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is one of the newest tools to stop illness and limit the spread of COVID-19. Health Canada has deemed the vaccine safe and effective and it continues to receive more doses for distribution across the country.

The Expositor called and emailed representatives from M’Chigeeng Health Centre and Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre, which are both reportedly planning for vaccination clinics, but did not receive comment by press deadline Monday.