Southwestern Public Health Medical Officer of Health Doctor Joyce Lock emphasized the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccination at a weekly press briefing on Wednesday, April 21.
She began by listing the status of regional vaccionation efforts that day. Since then, the most current numbers (as of Monday, April 26) were: 54,874 residents, or about 26% of the region has been immunized against COVID-19 with at least one dose; About 71% of residents over aged 80 and 78% of those over 70 have been immunized.
“Our emphasis has been on risk related to age, and you can see that in our numbers,” said Dr. Lock. “We started this work in long term care homes and retirement homes and then move toward the elderly living in the community.”
Everyone over 60 is now eligible for a vaccination through SWPH mass vaccination clinics in St. Thomas, Woodstock, and Tillsonburg. Anyone over 40 is eligible for a vaccination through a participating local pharmacy.
Anyone aged 16 or over with a high risk medical condition is now eligible for the vaccine, and one of their primary essential caregivers can accompany them. The conditions include a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 40; pregnancy; treatments that cause immunosuppression, such as chemotherapy, or immune weaking medications; and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities such as down syndrome.
Those pregnant, receiving chemotherapy or other immune weaking medications are asked to speak with their physician or treatment provider regarding vaccination.
“You do not need a username or password to book and proof of condition is not required. Just indicate what condition you have that makes you eligible when you book your appointment,” said Dr. Lock.
SWPH recently opened a third mass immunization clinic at the Tillsonburg Community Centre as of April 27. Operational hours are Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
East Elgin Family Health Team organized a pop-up vaccination clinic. Hundreds of people over age 50 will be getting their vaccines in the first week of May.
At least 28 local pharmacies are now offering the AstraZeneca vaccination, said Dr. Lock. There is a provincial website available that lists each pharmacy offering the vaccine, as well as links for pre-registration.
“The best vaccine for you is the one you can get today,” said Dr. Lock. Any one of the three vaccines that are available currently will do the job and is safe.”
“I recommend that if you are eligible for vaccine, you do not wait with the hope that a different vaccine will become available. There is no guarantee you will get a choice of a specific brand of vaccine at any point.”
She noted that all seniors in long-term care homes and retirement homes have now been vaccinated, and “we’re not seeing the deaths there anymore.”
The vaccine does not always prevent COVID-19, but if one does get the virus after being vaccinated, the symptoms will be much milder, said Dr. Lock.
People aren’t considered fully vaccinated until two doses have been administered. Everyone is encouraged to continue following COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as hand washing, wearing face masks, and physical distancing, whether they have had the vaccine or not.
“The dose doesn't really start to protect you for two to three weeks, so people need to continue to play it very safe in in those first few weeks after they get the vaccine,” said Dr. Lock.
Veronica Reiner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Aylmer Express