The good news is the province opened vaccinations to those 18 and over Tuesday, to include the younger ages where infection spread is most common.
Vaccinations for the 12 to 17-year-olds won’t be far behind, with vaccination appointments to open to that age group at the end of the month, and dedicated clinics expected in June.
The not-so-good news is that while this makes first doses available to considerably more people, the region will not be able to accommodate them all, restrained by the lack of vaccine.
“Be patient,” is the message from Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the acting medical officer of health for Niagara.
The province is receiving more vaccine, and is not reserving large amounts for hot spots, so more will come this way, says Hirji, but not enough.
Appointments are basically already booked for priority groups until the end of the month, although there will be some availability for those in the younger age groups, he says, but not nearly enough “in the near future.”
“The province is rapidly opening up access to vaccines. Starting Tuesday (May 18), all adults will be able to book appointments.”
The 50 per cent of vaccines that has in past weeks been redirected to hot spots will instead be distributed to public health units across the province, and primary care doctors and pharmacies will also be receiving doses of Pfizer and Moderna “in the near future,” Hirji says. “We will see an upward trend of vaccinations.”
Pharmacist Sean Simpson said Tuesday he has received 100 doses of Moderna at the Simpson’s Apothecary on King Street, and is expecting 150 doses of Pfizer at the Niagara Stone Road pharmacy this week. He will be working his way through his waiting list this week, offering appointments, he says.
But age groups opening up adds 160,000 more people to the list of those eligible in the next couple of weeks, competing for about 20,000 doses of vaccine, he says.
“The vaccine supplies are not coming at the same pace as eligibility is opening up. I think we need to be prepared that that might be the eventuality.”
More clinics and more appointments will open up, he says, suggesting those eligible should keep checking the provincial booking website for availability, but it may be the end of June before all those eligible for their first dose will be able to get it.
While those who are front-line health care workers or who work in long-term care or retirement homes may be next for second doses, Hirji warns for most of the population, depending on their risk, sooner may not be better than later.
Waiting the extra time, three to four months for a second dose, may mean better protection in the long-term. There’s a “trade-off” of less protection now, more in the future, Hirji explains.
“For most of us who don’t have acute risk, with a second dose at three to four months, the protection will be better.”
Niagara-on-the-Lake held two successful vaccination clinics at the community centre last weekend, but there are no more clinics scheduled in town at this point.
For information about who can book and when, and a list of clinic locations through to June 5, visit https://niagararegion.ca/health/covid-19/vaccination/appointment-booking.aspx
To book a vaccination appointment visit ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call 1-888-943-3900.