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COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out across region

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

COVID-19 vaccines are well on their way to getting into the arms of seniors in Durham Region.

According to Lakeridge Health Chief of Staff Dr. Tony Stone, approximately 15,000 vaccines have been administered to seniors in long-term care and retirement homes in Durham, as well as essential healthcare and hospital staff.

“Vaccine distribution is going fine,” he says, noting the first doses administered in Durham were completed a while ago, while second doses for residents in long term care homes should be completed by Feb. 8, followed by the completion of second doses for residents in high-risk retirement homes by Feb. 15.

As the current vaccine supply is unstable, Stone notes the key focus has been the completion of the second dose to residents of long-term care and retirement homes, as well as the vaccination of patient-facing clinical staff, and healthcare workers in hospitals.

While the vaccine supply shortage has affected Durham Region, Stone says the region is on track with administering the second doses on time, noting the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine should be administered between days 21 and 27. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), he says new data indicates the second dose can be administered up to 42 days after the first.

“In order to deal with the shortage, we have extended the time of the second dose for all healthcare workers in the hospitals eligible for vaccine, and all long-term care and retirement home workers,” says Stone, noting the second dose will be extended to up to 35 days, and no later than 42 days.

While Stone says there has been some hesitancy among some staff in receiving the vaccine, 98 per cent have taken the vaccination.

“Almost everybody wants a vaccine among residents,” says Stone. “Everyone is very eager to know when their turn is. Who isn’t?”

However, Stone says there’s quite a ways to go before Phase 1 of the vaccine plan will be completed.

According to Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan, the COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to Ontario residents in three phases.

Phase 1 began in Dec. 2020 with the first doses being distributed to 19 hospitals across the province, including Lakeridge Health, and is expected to continue into March 2021.

As part of Phase 1, vaccines are going to residents, essential caregivers, and other employees in congregate living settings for seniors; 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; and adult recipients of chronic home health care.

According to the province, Phase 2 is expected to begin in March 2021 to July 2021, depending on vaccine availability, in which approximately 8.5 million people are expected to be vaccinated.

Those eligible to receive the vaccine as part of Phase 2 include older adults, beginning with those 80 and older, and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout; people who live and work in high-risk congregate settings, such as shelters and community living; frontline essential workers, including first responders, teachers and other education staff and food processing industry; individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers; and other populations and communities across the province who area at greater risk for COVID-19.

Vaccine rollout for Phase 3 is expected to begin in August 2021, depending on vaccine availability.

According to the vaccine implementation plan, Phase 3 will include all remaining Ontarians in the general population who want to be vaccinated.

When Phase 1 is completed, Stone notes Lakeridge Health will begin the rollout of Phase 2, depending on availability.

“What we don’t know is what the vaccine supply is going to look like,” says Stone, however he notes supply is expected to pick up around March.

“Our goal is to keep as little vaccine in the freezer as possible, because that means it’s in arms where it belongs and that’s what we’re committed to.”