MORRISBURG – If you live in South Dundas, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has meant having to leave the municipality to go to a clinic or a pharmacy. That may be changing soon.
The Eastern Ontario Health Unit is working on a plan to offer a vaccination clinic in South Dundas by the first week of May.
EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis explained during his April 19th media briefing that details were still being worked out.
“We’re aiming for the end of April or the first week of May,” he said, adding he had been on the phone with South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds earlier Monday to discuss the matter. “We’re just trying to figure out where the best place would be.”
He said the EOHU is looking at the Morrisburg Arena as a possible location now that the ice has been removed for the season, but that facility has some accessibility challenges.
“The problem is it was built in the ‘60s and accessibility is an issue, so we’re looking at ways around it,” said Roumeliotis adding that the health unit is also looking at Seaway District High School in Iroquois.
“We are actively doing on-site visits at this point,” he said.
“We have always offered our help to Dr. Paul and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to set up some sort of vaccination clinic in South Dundas knowing the needs of our residents are just as important as anywhere else,” South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds told The Leader.
The municipality has offered facilities like the Morrisburg Arena and Matilda Hall as large venues.
“In our current discussions we are looking at the Morrisburg Arena as a suitable mass vaccination clinic,” Byvelds explained.
There are some slight accessibility issues to address with the arena but Byvelds said the municipality is working on those with the health unit.
A similar arena type of mass vaccination clinic recently held at the Joel Steele Arena in Winchester vaccinated about 1,000 people in a day.
Byvelds said he hopes the arena will be the site chosen for South Dundas even though the arena is not technically in the geographic centre of the municipality.
“It’s central-south. It’s closer to where more of the population resides,” he said. “In this day and age we need to try to get the most number of people, especially those who live in settings where more people congregate and the villages tend to be that way.”
South Dundas has been a vaccine desert since supply first reached the EOHU in late December.
The nearest health unit clinics are in Winchester and Cornwall.Both administer the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine.
There are six pharmacies in the EOHU region approved to vaccinate using the AstraZeneca vaccine, one in Winchester and two in Cornwall.
Two of the three pharmacies in South Dundas have applied to administer COVID-19 vaccinations. Neither Seaway Valley Pharmacy in Morrisburg, nor Gilmer Pharmacy in Iroquois have received approval or supply yet.
Roumeliotis said that he has been working on trying to get approval from the Ontario government for more pharmacies.
“We’re working on it,” he said. “We have asked to add, particularly in that area, South Dundas and Ingleside as well.”
Roumeliotis said he has been working with Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell on it with a bit of optimism.
“Looking at AstraZeneca uptake and numbers coming in we’ve asked to add more,” he explained. “We were told we can have potentially as many [pharmacies] as we had for flu vaccinations.”
There are between 30 and 40 pharmacies in the EOHU region that offered flu vaccinations according to Roumeliotis.
“I’m hoping we can get some news on that,” he added.
The provincial government last expanded COVID-19 vaccinations in pharmacies on April 11th.
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader