PHSD, partners prep for next vaccination stage

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MANITOULIN – Vaccination rollout plans for the Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) catchment area, which includes Manitoulin Island, are presently in development. The public health unit stated in a press release Friday that it was expecting to receive more doses this week and be able to start the second phase of vaccinations, for people who are most at risk for having a severe case and for those who care for them.

The first doses have already gone to all consenting residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes. This second round will extend to all staff and essential caregivers tied to said facilities. 

Also in the second round will be Indigenous adults in higher-risk communities, ‘alternate level of care’ hospital patients who have a space confirmed in a care facility, and health care workers deemed highest or very high priority.

Following that phase, residents, staff and caregivers of all retirement homes (at regular risk levels), adults 80 years old or older, people who regularly receive home care, high-priority health care workers and all Indigenous adults will be permitted to get the jab.

PHSD stated in the release that it had not yet finalized plans for vaccine clinics, but said it was planning to use places such as community clinics and health care providers. The details of those locations and instructions on how to make an appointment will go out to eligible people when it is their time to get vaccinated.

Anyone who is invited to get vaccinated should also bring documentation to prove their eligibility, such as proof of employment in a particular health care role.

Manitoulin Health Centre (MHC) is among the partners with whom PHSD has been collaborating.

“Our VP of clinical services (Paula Fields) sits on the vaccine distribution implementation team, and our chief of staff (Dr. Simone Meikleham). It’s a weekly meeting and they certainly have been made aware that we had an ultra-low freezer on order, and we’ve now received it,” said MHC president and CEO Lynn Foster.

She suggested that, as PHSD seeks potential mass vaccination sites, MHC has encouraged the use of its field hospital at Little Current-Howland Recreation Centre for such a purpose.

 “We have no information at this point about … when we will get the vaccines,” she told The Expositor February 18.

Despite the uncertainty of specific timelines, Ms. Foster said MHC and other health care providers have been doing as much advance prep-work as possible so when vaccines become available, which is often on short notice, the health centres can act immediately.

“I know a number of other health care providers out there have started with consent forms with their staff to ensure that when the time comes, (they’re ready),” she said 

A PHSD spokesperson told The Expositor via email on February 19 that the health unit is actively working with MHC and other health providers, as well as community leadership, to plan for clinics. 

They stated final vaccination site determination would be “based on factors such as vaccine product, community logistics, provider availability, program (roll-out) phase and priority population served. PHSD is working with partners to match sites with these factors to enable rapid decision-making and ramp-up once details are known, enabling local action.”

PHSD stated it would limit the number of vaccination sites and work to balance between convenience (closeness to people receiving vaccines) and ensuring the health unit can quickly adjust to changing circumstances and ensure safety.

It added that MHC is working with the Ministry of Health to determine the next steps for becoming a designated hospital storage site.

Some of the special factors under consideration for the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out also include security concerns and maintaining infection prevention and control measures.

As of last week in the PHSD catchment area, six elders’ lodges, one high-risk retirement home and all long-term care homes have hosted vaccination clinics, resulting in 1,729 people getting immunized.

Public health cautioned that even though vaccinations are beginning, the public must still follow all provincial and local restrictions because the majority of the population is still vulnerable to the virus, especially more-transmissible variant forms.