Hamilton began rolling out COVID vaccines to homebound residents over the weekend, while details emerged on how special education workers can book their shots on Monday.
However, the city is still working on identifying those eligible for vaccines based on their health conditions, and the medical officer of health had few details on when those residents can expect appointments.
At a city briefing on Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said paramedics administered vaccines to some residents in their homes over the weekend. She said homebound individuals eligible for the service are identified through home care or their primary-care physician.
“Those who have significant challenges in getting out to get vaccinated ... would get the direct delivery where they live,” said Richardson. She noted the service is not for those who can travel to a clinic.
Special education workers provincewide became eligible for their shots this week, though details for how they could book their vaccines were only announced Monday afternoon.
Staff in any Ontario elementary or secondary school who directly support students with “complex special education needs” can phone the Ontario vaccine booking line at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY 1-866-797-0007) to book their vaccines. The line is available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with information in more than 300 languages.
Currently, the city is vaccinating residents who are age 60 and up, Indigenous people age 18 and older, adult recipients of chronic home care, and seniors in congregate care with up to two caregivers each. Those age 55 and older can get the AstraZeneca shot through one of more than 50 pharmacies offering the vaccine in the city.
The city is working to vaccinate other eligible groups, including hospitalized residents age 60 and older, as well as residents age 50 and older living in “hot spot” postal codes, Richardson said.
“We’re also working with our local hospitals and doctors to identify individuals who fall into the highest-risk health conditions category to arrange for vaccination,” she added, noting those in the “high risk” category will also be included. She said she expects more updates “as we go through this week.”
Margaret Bradley, a 44-year-old brain injury survivor, wants to get her vaccine so she can return to volunteering at a local restaurant. She resides at a residential-care facility operated by Head Injury Rehabilitation Ontario (HIRO) in the lower city.
“I pray I get the vaccine soon,” she said in an interview. “I love volunteering.”
The LHIN-funded agency has been asking for its Hamilton clients to receive vaccines alongside their counterparts in Niagara, where CEO Mila Ray-Daniels said an in-house physician is set to administer vaccines to clients directly. She said the agency made a similar offer to Hamilton, but has heard nothing.
“We’ve offered to Hamilton to have our primary care provider do it,” Ray-Daniels said. “He’ll go home to home, he already knows the clients. All I need is the vaccine.”
Meanwhile, the agency has had two outbreaks, she said. Staff are already eligible to receive their shots, Ray-Daniels noted, but their 15 local clients don’t all fit into the same criteria — some booked their shots once their age group became eligible, while others receive home care.
However, she argues they are all more vulnerable because they live in a congregate setting.
“We’re lobbying literally on a person-by-person basis to get access for something that should have been a no-brainer,” said Ray-Daniels.
On Friday, public health commented on the agency’s case in an email statement, saying, “Generally speaking, residential care facilities are congregate settings, and are part of Phase 2 of the province’s vaccine rollout,” which the public health and its health-care partners “are currently working through.
“Please note, anyone within these facilities who was already eligible for vaccine as part of Phase 1, may have chosen to receive the vaccine,” spokesperson James Berry noted.
Richardson also addressed why some municipalities are further along with their vaccine rollout than others — for example, Toronto and Peel already offer appointments to residents based on their health conditions.
“Some of the decisions that are getting made are becoming more and more targeted around hot spot areas around things that are possible or addressing issues within each community,” she said. The medical officer of health noted different factors include the use of the province’s booking tool and the advice of a local vaccine task force on sequencing based on local capacity, needs and supply.
Hamilton administered 9,421 doses from Friday to the end of Sunday, which is about 3,140 per day. To date, about 23 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose, according to Richardson.
Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator