The Vaccine Rollout Strategy ~ A Mammoth Regional and Provincial undertaking

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The first resident of Algoma received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the Algoma region. He is a resident of the Ontario Finnish Rest Home (Mauno Kaihla Koti). (photo courtesy, Algoma Public Health, January 27, 2021)

Ontario’s population reached 14,745,040 on April 1, 2020. Sault Ste. Marie’s population is made up of 73,368 of those people. Getting Sault and all of Algoma district residents vaccinated against COVID-19 is already underway.

The first resident from the Algoma District received a vaccination on January 27th, 2021, when Larry Grekula, a resident of Mauno Kaihla Koti since 2006 and chair of the residents council, received his first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

On January 27th, APH reported that Algoma’s long term care partners have been working closely with APH since the beginning of January and are ready to start the immunization process.

“The arrival of the vaccine is great news for our community, and helps us build another strong layer of protection around our long term care residents,” said Dr. Jennifer Loo, Medical Officer of Health for Algoma Public Health. “I want to thank all the partners who are working together to make this happen, and who continue to make preparations for broader community immunization in Algoma, once vaccines are available.”

The Ontario government recently announced the provinces 34 public health units will be responsible for coming up with and carrying out their own plan to vaccinate residents in their region. General Rick Hillier (retired), Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force said people 80 years and over can expect a vaccination appointment by the third week of March.

Speaking at a news conference at Queen’s Park Ret. Gen. Rick Hillier announced a provincial online vaccine booking system and call centre. Hillier said that the portal will go live on March 15 and residents who are over the age of 80 can make an appointment at that time. Hillier further stated there are about 550,000 people province-wide that fall in that group.

Leo Vecchio, Manager of Communications, Algoma Public Health has updated Superior Media on the evolving rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in our region. “Algoma Public Health can confirm that we are receiving allocations of vaccine for Algoma this week and next, which will allow us to immunize Long-term Care Home (LTCH) staff and essential caregivers, and highest priority health care workers.  LTCH residents will also be able to receive their second doses of vaccine within the recommended interval.” Now that is great news!

Ontario has capacity to vaccinate nearly 40,000 people per day and is building capacity to triple or quadruple that capacity pending vaccine supply from the federal government.

Ontario government further stated that a customer service desk will be made available to those who are unable to book an appointment through the online portal ~ details will be provided over the coming weeks.

“Our government continues to take decisive action to keep Ontarians safe and by expanding our Phase One priority populations, we are ensuring more vaccines are being distributed to those who need it most,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “As we prepare for a broader rollout in Phase Two, we ask Ontarians to stay the course and follow public health guidance to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus to help save lives.”

Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan, as of February 25, 2021 shows that 621,960  total doses have been administered with 255,449 Ontario citizens fully vaccinated. Full vaccination efficacy requires 2 doses, administered a few weeks apart.

The proposed schedule in the following weeks, Hillier said, will look something like this as long as supplies of vaccine stay steady:

  • April 15: vaccinations begin for people 75 years old and over.
  • May 1: vaccinations begin for people 70 years old and over.
  • June 1: vaccinations begin for people 65 years and over.
  • July 1: vaccinations begin for people 60 years and over.

Hillier said that essential workers, should begin getting vaccinated the first week in May.

A bit of history on the vaccine and its distribution schedule.

After independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality, Health Canada approved two vaccines for use in Canada:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech – approved on December 9, 2020
  • Moderna – approved on December 23, 2020

Both vaccines are manufactured in Belgium. After two doses, they are expected to be 94-95% effective. The Pfizer vaccine is licensed for use in people 16 years of age and older, including seniors. The Moderna vaccine is licensed for use in people 18 years of age and older. The vaccines are free for everyone. For people without a health card, government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, Status Cards, can be used.

It is recommended that a person consult with their health care provider, if:

  • younger than 16 years of age (but between 12 to 15 years old)
  • pregnant, want to become pregnant soon after vaccination, or breastfeeding
  • have a autoimmune disorder or weakened immune system due to illness or treatment
  • have a bleeding problem, bruise easily

Phase 1, already well underway, began in December 2020 and will continue through March 2021. Limited doses of the vaccine are available for health care workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and retirement homes, other congregate care settings and remote Indigenous communities.

Saultonline brought you a story about Operation Remote Immunity, involving health teams and Ornge who brought vaccines to Ontario’s far north region.

On February 19, 2021 the province announced efforts to expand capacity and ramp up Phase Two vaccination rollout, expected to begin in April 2021. “Public health units have developed plans to operate mass immunization clinics as soon as enough supply becomes available, as well as continuing to offer mobile clinics to vaccinate our most vulnerable.”

“I want to assure the people of this great province that we are ready to get vaccines into as many arms as possible, we simply need the supply,” said Premier Doug Ford. “Our Vaccine Task Force, led by General Hillier, is executing our vaccine distribution plan with military precision and we have now administered over a half a million doses. This is great progress, but we would all like to be moving faster. I urge our federal government partners to do whatever it takes to get us more vaccines so we can better protect people and eventually defeat this deadly virus.”

Phase 2 (March – July 2021) is designated for Priority Groups, as defined below:

  • Residents, staff, essential caregivers in congregate living settings for seniors (e.g. long-term care and retirement homes)
  • Health Care Workers, including hospital employees, staff who work or study in hospitals and health care personnel
  • Adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations
  • Adult recipients of chronic home health care

The approach and the groups chosen as first priorities are designated by the federal and provincial governments

As more doses become available to Ontarians, Phase 2 Priority Groups’ vaccinations will be expanded from within the approximately 8.5 million people that make up Phase 2 citizens.

These citizens are:

  • Older Adults starting aged 80+ and decreasing in five-year increments through Phase II – Phase III
  • High-risk congregate settings – workers, clients, and their caregiversE.g. shelters, community living
  • Frontline essential workers including first responders, teachers and other education staff and the food processing industry.
  • Other populations and communities facing barriers related to health determinants across Ontario at greater COVID-19 risk

Ontarians that make up Phase 3, can expect vaccination to be available August 2021 and beyond, depending on availability of vaccines.

An ethical framework is guiding vaccine prioritization and distribution across the province, ensuring that vaccine distribution priorities are consistent, fair and transparent.

Superior Media will continue to track our regions’ distribution plan as information becomes available. Algoma Public Health and information related to COVID-19 can be found here.