Hamilton seniors 75 years and up will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines from Monday

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Hamilton residents aged 75 and up will be able to register for vaccine appointments from Monday after the province announced an expanded rollout on Friday.

The news comes as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the city.

As of March 22, seniors 75 and older will be eligible to book vaccine appointments through the provincial portal, almost a month before schedule.

The rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine is also being expanded starting Monday. Select Ontario pharmacies and primary-care offices will begin giving appointments to residents 60 years and up for the vaccine.

Currently, in Hamilton, seniors 80 years and up are able to book their appointments through the provincial portal. Limited residents aged 60 to 64 are eligible for the AstraZeneca shot in a pilot that involves primary-care physicians booking patients directly.

While public health confirmed late Friday that local seniors 75 years and up will be able to book appointments from Monday, it’s unclear how the province’s announcement affects the AstraZeneca rollout locally.

In an email, spokesperson James Berry said public health and its primary-care partners “are working with the province to understand how this will impact the pilot.”

Nearby in Haldimand-Norfolk, residents 75 years and older who have family doctors in the region are already being contacted to book appointments. Those without a primary-care physician can contact the Haldimand-Norfolk vaccine line at 519-427-5903 or email vaccine@hnhss.ca with their name, age and phone number to receive an appointment once one is available.

Haldimand-Norfolk is also starting a wait list for seniors 70 to 74 years old (born 1946 to 1951) for leftover appointments caused by cancellations or no-shows.

On Friday, Hamilton reported two new COVID-19 deaths and 124 new cases. There are now 621 active cases in the city, the highest since January.

One of the deaths appears to be linked to the outbreak at Hamilton General Hospital’s unit 8 west — the first in that outbreak. It’s unclear what age group the latest deaths occurred in. On Friday, the city reported two new deaths of people 80 and older, one new death of a person in their 50s, and removed one death from the 70s age group.

Hamilton’s seven-day rate of new cases per 100,000 continued to grow, reaching 89 from 84 reported on Thursday.

The number of presumed cases of fast-spreading COVID-19 variants also grew in the city. There are 361 cases which screened positive for a variant in Hamilton, an increase of 35 from Thursday. There’s also one new confirmed case of the B.1.1.7 variant, for a total of nine in the city.

Nearly all cases which screen positive for the variant end up being confirmed, according to Hamilton’s medical officer of health.

There are now 12 active outbreaks where cases have screened positive for a COVID-19 variant, including a new one at Dr. J.E. Davey Elementary School. (The Electromart Inc. outbreak which screened positive was declared over on March 18.)

Four other outbreaks were declared in the city — in the dialysis centre at St. Joseph’s Charlton Campus, Abington Court Retirement Residence, J&M Lodging Home , and Greensville Elementary School.

Halton, York Region and Brant County already began opening up appointments for those 75 years and older this week, with other public health units preregistering individuals for future appointments.

Originally, the province planned to start offering vaccines to those 75 years and older on April 15. The Ford government said Friday the rollout is expanding since more than half of those 80 and over in Ontario have now received at least one dose.

The expansion of the AstraZeneca rollout follows an updated recommendation by a national panel of experts that now deems the vaccine safe for those 65 years and older.

— With files from the Toronto Star

Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator