Lambton’s medical officer of health offered some insight Wednesday into how the COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out locally when it finally arrives in the region.
The following are some highlights from Dr. Sudit Ranade’s presentation, along with some answers he provided to questions from Lambton County councillors during an hour-long special meeting, which was broadcast live online:
- The province hasn’t explained to local health officials why Sarnia-Lambton hasn’t received any doses yet, despite the number of cases and outbreaks spiking for several weeks.
- The first doses are expected to arrive during the week of Feb. 1, but timelines “change very frequently.” (Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey wrote a followup letter to the special meeting Wednesday afternoon saying Lambton is one of 11 health units expected to start receiving it that week, according to the Ministry of Health).
- Timelines and who is eligible during this first phase is subject to change based on Ontario’s priorities.
- When it does arrive, long-term care and retirement home residents, staff and essential caregivers will be the first priority, per the province’s direction.
- Public health staff are already doing “pre-site visits” at local seniors’ homes to make sure they’re prepared, to get consent from eligible people, and to set up schedules.
- Local public health officials believe they can hit the province’s target of administering at least the first of two doses to all long-term care and retirement home residents by Feb. 15.
- Vaccines won’t be mandatory for people living in long-term care or retirement homes.
- Local health officials are expecting to get the Moderna vaccine instead of the Pfizer version, which is easier to store and administer. Regardless, they want people to have the same version for both doses.
- Clinics for “low-volume immunization” will also be created during the first phase to get familiar with the process. They’re following a “crawl, walk, run” model.
- Mobile teams will be targeting people based on priority through March and April, while fixed-site clinics will offer it to people the province deems eligible.
- Clinics will look a “little bit different” than in the past, such as for H1N1, as officials have to account for physical distancing. They will be appointment based to avoid lineups.
- Potentially having the number of eligible people outnumber the supply of doses early on is going to be a “critical” issue.
- Patience will be a “pillar” of the plan: “There’s going to lots of waiting in this process,” Ranade said.
- Ontario’s goal of having all residents who want the vaccine receive it by August is “very ambitious” and will depend on local supply levels.
- Officials aren’t sure at this point how long the vaccine’s immunity lasts.
- Officials can only make “limited” claims on how well the vaccine reduces transmission of the disease.
- A local vaccine task force will be created, including public health, Bluewater Health, paramedics, primary care, municipalities, and First Nations officials. It was expected to meet Wednesday after the special council meeting.
The entire session can be seen at bit.ly/2XVnMSl.
There were 10 more confirmed COVID-19 cases in Sarnia-Lambton Wednesday for a total of 1,685 after Lambton public health released its online report. The number of active cases dropped 21 to 202 while the amount of resolved cases climbed 32 to 1,450.
The number of active outbreaks was still 13. Ten were in local long-term care and retirement homes. Village on the St. Clair in Sarnia had the highest numbers, with 25 residents and 10 staff infected – four more overall than Tuesday – along with two deaths. Twin Lakes Terrace long-term care home had 20 cases – 16 residents – and one death. Vision retirement home had 18 cases, 16 of them residents.
An outbreak is also ongoing at the Sarnia Jail, where four staff tested positive, and at two unnamed local workplaces.
The region’s incidence rate for the period of Jan. 10-16 was 289 per 100,000 people, with 4.5 per cent of tests coming back positive. It was 6.2 per cent the previous week.
A total of 33 Sarnia-Lambton residents have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Bluewater Health reported 10 COVID-19-positive patients in hospital Wednesday, the same as the previous day.
The provincewide lockdown and stay-at-home orders were extended another 30 days this past weekend by the province.