Niagara region public health staff were expected to have delivered nearly 5,000 needles by Wednesday evening after a full week of mass COVID-19 immunization clinics for people 75 and older.
They could do more, but it’s about providing, said acting medical officer of health Dr Mustafa Hirji.
“It’s just a fact of life that these are new vaccines,” he said.
“It is only so quickly that the vaccines can reach us. This has been a limiting factor and it remains a bit of a limiting factor. “
Over the next two weeks, Niagara expects its biggest vaccine shipments to date – 5,000 doses of Moderna this week and 16,380 doses of Pfizer next week. Nearly 13,000 doses of Pfizer are also expected in each of the first two weeks of April.
So far, Pfizer has arrived at a rate of about 7,300 doses per week since mid-January, and 2,800 Moderna doses have been received in total.
Niagara Health and public health combined have administered more than 56,000 vaccines to people 75 years of age and older as well as frontline healthcare workers, according to current data. About 48,000 residents received at least one injection of the vaccine.
Public health clinics will operate daily until April 10 on a rotating basis at sites in the region.
Anyone 75 and over can make an appointment at Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-888-999-6488. People who still use the old red Ontario health cards can only book by phone.
Almost all Niagara residents aged 80 and over – and about 6,400 aged 75 to 79 – have either received their shots or are booked for one, Hirji said.
“This represents about a third of our 75 to 79 age group and hopefully we will continue to see that number increase,” he said.
He said clinics were scheduled based on how much vaccine the provincial government was supposed to ship.
Shortages have not been a problem, however, if there were more vaccines available larger crowds could be accommodated.
“It’s almost 50,000 people in this age group (75+), so we need the vaccine almost every week to get through them,” Hirji said.
He has yet to hear from the province when people aged 70 to 74 can register.
At this point, he hopes Niagara pharmacies and primary care physicians will be included in the rollout of vaccination in the province to reach more people.
There have been “a lot of little lessons” public health staff have learned since the first vaccination clinic opened last Thursday in Niagara Falls, Hirji said.
On the one hand, impatient elderly people showed up too early.
“So we installed additional signage to remind people not to get out of their cars until about five minutes before their meeting, because we really tried to minimize the number of people in the building at all times,” did he declare.
Also, on cool days people were bundled up. Now, volunteers work with them upon their arrival to remove their coats and bare arms so needles can be delivered quickly and efficiently.
The province’s registration system has generally worked well, Hirji said, although on Friday a temporary glitch prevented Niagara residents from making appointments.
Additionally, staff found that people wanting to be vaccinated were ready to go to clinics earlier and did not wait to book one in their hometown.
Going forward, said Hirji, this could change the way clinics are located and planned in Niagara.
“For now, however, I think we want to do clinics in all areas of Niagara, to make sure everyone has an option that is local to them, especially as we continue to vaccinate a relatively older population. who might not be able to travel that far.