4,000 COVID-19 shots from Windsor-Essex pharmacies went to non-residents of the region

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Windsor-Essex, in southwestern Ontario, had an allotment of around 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine as part of a pharmacy pilot project. (File photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images - image credit)
Windsor-Essex, in southwestern Ontario, had an allotment of around 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine as part of a pharmacy pilot project. (File photo from Joe Raedle/Getty Images - image credit)

A significant portion of COVID-19 vaccine doses that came to Windsor-Essex through a pharmacy pilot project — about 16 per cent — were given to non-residents, according to public health.

Out of about 25,000 AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine doses, around 4,000 were provided to people not living in the southwestern Ontario region, Theresa Marentette, CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, said Tuesday.

Windsor-Essex was among three regions slated to receive a supply of COVID-19 vaccines in a pilot project announced about a month ago that has since expanded to other areas.

Fifty-seven local pharmacies received a supply and people 55 and older are eligible.

The province has not mandated that those receiving the vaccines have to live in same region as the pharmacy, prompting concern over how many vaccines would be given to residents versus non-residents.

Marentette said some vaccines have also been given to non-residents through the health unit's mass immunization clinics, which are open to those 60 and over, or 50 and up in select postal codes.

"At times there have been people from outside of Windsor and Essex County. I don't know the exact numbers. But it was basically at a time when there was a discrepancy or a change in age criteria," she said during the health unit's daily briefing Tuesday.

The vaccine rollout in Windsor-Essex got a head start starting in December due to the region's status as a hot spot, and vaccination rates remain far ahead of the provincial average.

The health unit's website says 24 per cent of residents have received one or more doses, compared with about 15 per cent across the province, according to Health Canada.

As of Tuesday, 119,024 doses have been administered to residents.

Asked whether she thought non-resident vaccinations have had an impact on how many people have been able to get shots locally, Marentette noted the vaccination strategy is provincial.

"We also are aware that people within Windsor and Essex County have accessed vaccinations outside of our area. So I think that, you know, it's happening both ways."