Southwestern Public Health is gearing up to offer third doses and vaccines to children under 12, once it gets provincial approval.
The public health unit for Elgin and Oxford counties announced Friday the expansion of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics, including a return to required appointments.
Starting Monday, the unit will suspend walk-in hours and require residents to book appointments at all public health clinics. Additional pop-up and mobile clinics will be announced later.
Evening and Saturday appointments also will be offered once the province OK's COVID shots for kids aged five to 11, the unit said.
"We're ready, and as soon as the green light comes from the Health Ministry, we will be there to offer vaccines," said medical officer of health Joyce Lock.
"We are resurrecting our mass immunization clinics because that is the most efficient way to get vaccines into the most arms as quickly as possible.”
The move comes a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada has enough doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children in this age group, following approval.
Ontario’s Health Ministry has not yet said when under-12s will become eligible for the jabs or when third doses will be made available, the health unit said.
“Despite it getting colder, and more of us being indoors, more things are open and capacity limits are being lifted, our (COVID-19 case) numbers are still low,” Lock said. “That speaks to the effectiveness of having so many people in our communities vaccinated."
She added: "We're hoping that we'll keep our children safe, our schools open, and allow children to participate in more of those extracurricular activities. That all becomes easier and less worrisome when we get the children five to 11 vaccinated, so that's why we're so excited to be at the phase.”
Friday, Ontario's health minister announced the province will release its third-dose plan next week.
The health unit also plans to expand capacity at its vaccine clinic in Woodstock and move its St. Thomas clinic to Memorial Arena's auditorium on Nov. 8.
Lock is encouraging area residents without their first or second dose to book an appointment. She said although the region's vaccine rates for first and second doses are well into 80 per cent range, the health unit hopes to get those numbers up to 90 to 95 per cent in the coming weeks.
Calvi Leon, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press