By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—In recent updates on the vaccination rollout locally, Haldimand Norfolk Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai has confirmed that vaccines are being distributed to Phase Two priority populations now.
“We continue to receive vaccines and as we receive vaccines we’re trying to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as we can,” said Nesathurai. “The framework (for priority) is set by Provincial policy…. Everyone who wants a vaccine will get vaccinated ultimately, but the challenge is to distribute the vaccine based on priority groups.”
“We’re trying to get the best possible outcome for all the people who are part of a population,” explained Nesathurai about the population-level health approach used for the framework. “When we treat patients individually in the clinic, we can make individual-level clinic decisions, but it’s hard to make individual-level clinic decisions for 110,000 people.”
With all willing residents at long-term care and retirement homes vaccinated already, staff at these facilities are now being vaccinated. Certain “forward facing” health care workers, considered to be at highest risk due to their interaction with the public, are now receiving vaccines as well. The 100 people over 80 who received their first dose of the vaccine in a trial public clinic in Vittoria previously are receiving their second dose this week, and the region plans to begin distributing to other community-living residents over 80 next week. Other priority groups that will begin vaccinations in the near future include elderly people living in congregate settings that are not long-term care or retirement facilities and Indigenous adults.
The Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit is primarily using the family health teams, with one group of family physicians in each county, to gather contact
information for eligible residents.
“We will initiate contact with people next week, assuming availability of the vaccine,” said Nesathurai. “As it is related to people who don’t have a family physician, there will be some system to identify these people and they can self-schedule, but that is likely to happen over the next few weeks.”
Nesathurai noted that scheduling appointments is complicated by the need to track administered vaccines and schedule follow up appointments for the second dose, so he believes it would be “most efficient for the Province to make a system.”
Vaccine distribution is expected to be multi-model, including doctors offices and pharmacies in addition to the clinics. Mobile clinics of some sort are also being considered for those unable to leave their residence or reach a clinic, but details are not yet available for this option.
How vaccines can be distributed also depends on which vaccine is in stock, as the Pfizer vaccine requires extremely cold temperatures when stored or transported to remain viable, making it difficult to distribute in certain settings. Nesathurai noted some regions are unable to store the Pfizer vaccine at all, and that capability is likely part of the reason Haldimand Norfolk has received solely Pfizer doses so far. Most recently, the district received approximately 3,000 doses last week, with another 3,000 expected this week and 2,000 expected next week. Nesathurai’s goal is to vaccinate 1,000 people a day eventually, which he believes would be possible with about five clinics set up in the region, but would be dependent on vaccine availability increasing.
“In the near term, there is not going to be enough vaccine to vaccinate all the people we want to,” said Nesathurai. “By the end of this month we will have vaccinated more people, but we will not have been able to vaccinate all the people we would like, so we have to prioritize.”