Grey-Bruce Public Health is poised to advocate for more vaccines

·3 min read

Municipal leaders who sit on the Grey Bruce health board expressed their frustration with the lack of vaccine at Friday’s meeting.

Medical officer of Health Dr. Arra said that we have been “the victim of our own success” in keeping COVID numbers down, because high-risk areas have been the main priority.

He said a plan for using three mass vaccination hubs has been submitted. “If we don’t get a response about piloting this hub and getting enough vaccine for high-risk task force, I plan to turn to advocacy,” he said.

“It shouldn’t be a matter of advocacy… but it seems there is disparity in the distribution to some degree,” he said.

Brian Milne, Southgate deputy-mayor, said that it is frustrating that Grey-Bruce had received only 200 doses at that time, and many frontline staff members were left waiting to be inoculated, while in other areas the cafeteria staff at facilities had received the vaccine.

Dr. Arra said he heard the frustration and shared the concern.

But he added that there is a fine line that needs to be walked, so that public health is to be seen to be working with the province, at the same time as advocating for the local area.

It’s important that the public perceives that there is a united approach, Dr. Arra said. And it’s not a matter of if the vaccines come, it’s when, he said. “And we will be ready whenever that happens.”

On Monday, Public Health informed the public that it had received 600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and expected delivery of another 700 doses of the vaccine next week, which will be enough to complete first dose vaccine coverage for all long-term care residents in Grey Bruce.

The latest international news is that shipments that were expected are not confirmed, and that has affected many areas in the province.

Health board members were happier about the return to school on Monday for Grey-Bruce students. Many parents will be relieved from the burden of making home learning work, but others are still cautions, said Selwyn Hicks, deputy-mayor of Hanover.

He said that the health unit had done a good job of communication, explaining that the data shows that transmission is not taking place in schools.

Members praised the outreach and media releases. Dr. Arra said that when he meets weekly with the mayors, he learns about issues in the community quickly and the health unit can address them.

A standing item on the Board of Health agenda is the opioid crises, and Dr. Arra reported that there have been more than 10 overdoses in the last two weeks in Grey-Bruce – “not deaths, thankfully, overdoses.”

Anecdotally, there were 13 deaths in Grey-Bruce in 2020 from opioids, zero from COVID. It’s a difficult crisis to address, Dr. Arra commented, with many complex issues, social, technical, ethical.

When the pandemic ends, he said that the health unit, with credibility gained during COVID, will have an opportunity to address opioid like never before. Other partners are doing good work right now, he said, and the pandemic is the public health priority.

M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald