Lord Mayor Betty Disero says there is a lot of confusion about vaccinations locally, which she hopes to be able to clear up soon.
But the overriding message now is to be patient. As more information is available, it will be communicated to the public, she says, and people will know when it’s time for their vaccination, who to contact and where to go for it.
There is a regional vaccination task force meeting Thursday to discuss details of the roll-out, and hopefully that information will be made public shortly after, she says.
She’s been receiving lots of questions from residents, to which she doesn’t have all the answers, and raised some of them with Dr. David Dec, the chair of the region’s vaccination task force, last Friday.
Dec says Niagara Health has been co-ordinating vaccinations for the most at-risk health care workers, including staff of hospitals, as well as long-term care and high-risk retirement homes who are getting their second doses this week. Space at the Seymour Hannah sports centre in St. Catharines reopened last week to allow for vaccinations as quickly as the vaccine supply is available.
He spoke in general terms of mobilizing quickly as the vaccine arrives, but with no specific details yet of the roll-out plan.
In Niagara-on-the-Lake, the community centre is expected to be the first vaccination site, although that too is still to be confirmed, Disero says.
How many days or hours the clinic will be open, she doesn’t know, but that is when and where she expects vaccinations to begin for those 80 years and older.
Decisions about details of clinics across the region are expected to be discussed at the task force meeting Thursday, she says.
Disero says NOTL residents contacting her with questions are confused about the process of vaccinations once Niagara moves on to that stage when they are available for older residents, some of whom have registered to receive their shots at a local pharmacy.
“I love that the pharmacies are going to assist with vaccinations,” she says, but when she questioned Dec Friday, she was clarifying that primary care clinics and pharmacies were expected to become part of the vaccinations at some point later down the road, as the roll-out works its way through from stage 1 through to stage 3.
Those 80-plus, she says, shouldn’t have to wait that long.
According to the Niagara Region website, first stage also prioritizes those at higher risk of severe outcomes of COVID-19, and those most likely to transmit infection to those at higher risk for severe illness or death.
Once those people and the 80-plus age group is vaccinated, it decreases the age limit by five-year increments to age 70 as supply of the vaccine becomes available.
“The 80-plus age group should be able to go to the community centre (if that’s the confirmed location), and not have to wait until the pharmacies are open for vaccinations,” she says. “There’s a lot of confusion about that’s out there. I’m hearing more and more from people who are asking what is going on. If people are waiting for pharmacies to acquire the vaccine, I’m afraid they may miss an opportunity.”
Sean Simpson of Simpson’s Pharmacy is a member of the regional task force, representing the Pharmacists’ Association of the Niagara Peninsula. His advice to those who are concerned or confused is also to be patient, and not to worry.
His Niagara Stone Road pharmacy is taking registrations from those who want the vaccine, compiling a list so that when he has vaccine, he will be able to begin vaccinations quickly.
But anyone on that list who has an opportunity to be vaccinated elsewhere sooner, such as at a local clinic, should do that, he says.
“I’m encouraging people to be added to the waitlist, but I don’t have any dates. We’ll be notifying people when we do.”
As a member of the task force, he doesn’t have any advance notice of dates of vaccine arrival, he says. Members are discussing how to proceed, on a consensus basis, with the goal of getting vaccinations done as soon as possible.
“People shouldn’t be worried. Worrying about it isn’t going to make it happen any sooner,” says Simpson.
The goal is for nobody to be overlooked, he says, and when more information is available about the roll-out, “there will be ample communication and awareness for people to know when it’s their turn. I’m anticipating a lot of people (registered at Simpson’s) will get access to the vaccine before we have a chance to notify them. If you can get the vaccine somewhere else, take it.”
When the pharmacy has the vaccine available, the list will make it easier to help reach out as quickly as possible to those who are waiting to be vaccinated, he says.