Haldimand-Norfolk to ramp up vaccine program

·3 min read

Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, medical officer of health in Haldimand-Norfolk, wants to soon see the health unit vaccinating 1,000 people per day against COVID-19.

It’s part of his goal to reach all those who want the vaccine in Haldimand-Norfolk — home to some 112,000 residents, plus more than 4,000 seasonal farm workers — by August.

“I think we can achieve 1,000 a day if we had four or five community vaccination centres,” Nesathurai said, referring to sites such as the Cayuga arena that are being considered as vaccine hubs.

“Every vaccine that we have, we want to distribute as quickly as possibly. The issue is the delivery of the vaccine,” he said.

“In the near term, there’s not going to be enough vaccine to vaccinate all the people that we might want to vaccinate. Obviously, if more vaccine became available, we would ramp up everything we could.”

As of Monday, Haldimand-Norfolk had received 6,435 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and administered 4,107 doses.

Some 1,200 residents of long-term-care and retirement homes have been fully vaccinated, along with roughly one-third of the front-line staff at those facilities.

A clinic at Norfolk General Hospital last week saw 373 health-care workers — including nurses, physicians, paramedics and respiratory therapists — receive their first doses.

More health-care workers and some essential visitors to long-term-care homes will be vaccinated this week, while 100 seniors inoculated at a test clinic in Vittoria will get their second shots.

Nesathurai said there have been no reported serious side effects or adverse reactions to the vaccine.

With 3,000 doses arriving this week and another 2,000 expected next week, the vaccine will soon reach more seniors living in the community and residents receiving home care.

The health unit is starting with lists of elderly residents supplied by their family doctors.

As for residents of all ages who don’t have a regular doctor in Haldimand-Norfolk, Nesathurai said it would be “more efficient for the province to formulate a system” to book appointments and track doses.

Locally, Nesathurai expects residents will get the vaccine in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, community clinics and in special cases, at home.

“In a rural area, it’s more of a challenge, but I think the vast majority of residents have the ability to leave the house, whether on their own or through a family member or community agency,” Nesathurai said, adding a mobile clinic to reach the furthest-flung rural residents is being considered.

Supply will dictate if the health unit can hit their daily target, but Nesathurai is confident the overall rollout will be smooth.

“This is not really all that new. We vaccinate people for the flu every year, and that is the approach that we use,” he said. “It can be done efficiently, and in a timely and safe manner.”

There were 23 active COVID-19 cases in Haldimand-Norfolk on Monday, up from 13 on Friday.

In total since the start of the pandemic, 1,407 residents have tested positive, with 1,340 recoveries and 39 COVID-related deaths. Five people who had COVID-19 were deemed to have died of other causes.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator