Public Health Sudbury & Districts prepares for the COVID-19 vaccine

Public Health Sudbury & Districts is preparing for the arrival of COVID-19 vaccine in area communities. With Health Canada’s recent approval of the Pfizer vaccine and several other vaccines undergoing federal review, all three levels of government are preparing for vaccine distribution. Public Health is leading the local collaborative planning that it will take to actually get the vaccine into people’s arms.

“Although many aspects of vaccine planning and rollout are still evolving, it is not too early to plan for implementation. We want our communities to benefit from the vaccine the moment it is available locally—to do this we need to be prepared,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health for Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “This is a huge undertaking and it will require the partnership of many in the health system and beyond. The success of the vaccination program will rely on the coordinated actions of many key players.”

To date, Public Health has hosted two initial meetings with area leaders from health care, municipal, policing, and pharmacy sectors, as well as with Indigenous health representatives. These initial planning sessions—one for Greater Sudbury and one for the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts—mark the beginning of local discussions of the distinct factors that need to be considered for vaccine rollout in the area. Given the rapid developments and frequent announcements, participants shared updates from their various sectors. Among other topics, early consideration was given to coordinate efforts for vaccine storage, delivery, distribution, and administration, as well as communication and ensuring unique issues of geography, accessibility, and equity are taken into consideration.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have engaged closely with our partners at Public Health Sudbury & Districts. This latest phase of the pandemic response is no different and together we will all ensure a proactive local response and a comprehensive plan for our communities,” said Dominic Giroux, President and CEO of Health Sciences North. “We are fortunate to have close working relationships with provincial partners to help inform our local vaccine planning and rollout. This is a large, coordinated effort and one that can’t be done alone.”

There are essential roles for all levels of government. At a federal level, the Government of Canada is responsible for the overall procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring their safety and effectiveness through approval by Health Canada. The Province of Ontario is leading the overall immunization strategy for Ontario and identifying who will get the vaccine first. At a local level, municipalities and key stakeholders are collaborating for the planning and rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. This includes coordinated efforts for the distribution, administration, and public communication of the vaccine. Vaccine storage is also coordinated locally with Health Sciences North as it has been identified by the Province as a potential site for the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine.

Public Health has a mandate to reduce vaccine-preventable diseases through immunization and has much experience in community-based publicly-funded immunization programs. Public Health’s work is informed by a depth of experience with the seasonal influenza vaccine campaign as well as with immunization campaigns in response to the H1N1 pandemic and local cases of meningitis and hepatitis A, among others.

What we know

  • Vaccines are an important tool in the response against COVID-19. Health Canada’s review and approval of vaccine safety and efficacy are required for vaccines to be used in Ontario.
  • Public health measures, such as wearing a face covering and practising physical distancing, will still be required following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines until more is known about how the vaccine protects against asymptomatic spread.
  • Several COVID-19 vaccines have been submitted for approval. As of December 9, 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Government of Canada) has been approved by Health Canada for use in Canada.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be delivered in phases, and the Province of Ontario has identified key groups (Government of Ontario) of people who should receive the vaccine first. The initial rollout will begin in regions with the highest rates of COVID-19 infection.

For more information or if you have questions, please visit phsd.ca/COVID-19 or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).