By Kaitlyn Clark
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai is excited to see the vaccine rolling out across both Haldimand and Norfolk counties, but he warns it will be “many, many months” before widespread vaccination will be available.
“Our main focus this past week has been on vaccinating people at long term care facilities,” said Nesathurai, noting that the Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) is following the Provincial priority guidelines for releasing the vaccine, which focuses on vaccinating those most at risk first. HNHU then brought vaccines to retirement homes next.
Nesathurai confirmed that a delay in the Pfizer vaccine, one of two vaccines approved by Health Canada, is expected to last a few weeks in their production and distribution. He expects this leg of the vaccine’s journey – to reach local health unit inventory – will continue to be the biggest hurdle to distributing the vaccine.
“We’re obviously in a difficult time because we want to roll out as quickly as possible. I don’t anticipate though the challenge is going to be getting vaccines to people once you have the vaccine in inventory. The issue is about getting the vaccine in inventory,” he said, noting that they received the first round of vaccines on a Tuesday and began vaccinating the following day.
“Overall I think it will be the summer before we really have widespread vaccination,” added Nesathurai. Once priority populations are vaccinated and the inventory is in place, HNHU will begin offering the vaccine to the public.
“The health district and the allied institutions – the family doctors and hospitals – will all work together to organize a plan for vaccine distribution,” said Nesathurai, adding that his “preference would be to use the established flu vaccine distribution system”
“There is already an organized system to distribute vaccines to people in Ontario; we do it every year through the flu vaccination program. That’s a multi-model, redundant distribution network. First it includes family doctors, and in this health district I think there are approximately 70 family doctors who are involved in vaccination,” said Nesathurai. Along with family doctors, the flu vaccine is distributed through pharmacies, along with clinics organized by the hospitals and family health teams. “Given all that, I would expect an organized system of vaccine distribution.”
As of Monday, January 18, 2021 Haldimand Norfolk had surpassed 1,200 COVID-19 cases, including 38 deaths. At that time there were 393 residents in self-isolation with about 170 active cases.
As to whether or not the current stay-at-home order is helping, Nesathurai said, “It’s still early days to see what effect these measures have had…. I remain optimistic this (stay-at-home order) will bring the case counts down and under control.”