The call is on for everyone who can to get their annual flu shot and the new bivalent Covid booster shot as an early respiratory disease season is upon us and causing extra havoc for an already strained health care system.
While nothing is final until an upcoming review by the Middlesex-London Health Unit, the option to use the mass vaccination clinic in Mt. Brydges is likely to last only to the end of this year, according to Medical Officer of Health Dr. Alex Summers.
“We’ll be reviewing whether or not they’re an important part of our work moving forward into 2023,” said Summers of the two mass vaccination clinics in the health unit’s coverage area, the other being at the Western Fair District in London.
Summers was confident about the closure of the Mt. Brydges mass clinic at the Caradoc Community Centre on Lions Park Drive.
“We’ll actually be moving out of that community centre later on this year with the intention of freeing it up for the community in 2023. There will be a formal communication out of that, but we’re very aware that the community wants the community centre back and we’ll be beginning to make that possible in the near future,” explained Summers.
The reasoning for the mass vaccination clinics was to be able to handle large numbers of people seeking a vaccine in a short amount of time. They are less necessary now that booster shots are more spread out, and people can get their flu shots at the same time at local pharmacies.
“Covid is here to stay. When we think back two-and-a-half years ago, it’s kind of amazing that we have a new virus that’s going to be amongst us for a long time to come,” said Summers.
“And that means like going to get a haircut, you can’t just go get a haircut once. You’ve got to go back and get a trim and make sure you’re looking spiffy. And the same thing is true if you’re getting your Covid booster.
“With your Covid vaccine, you get really good protection against the most severe outcomes of Covid-19 and you also get some protection against getting infected in the first place. That immunity, though, wanes over time — it starts to diminish. That’s why it’s so important to get these booster,” explained Summers.
The doctor explained that protection decreases after about three to six months.
Right now the new bivalent booster that targets the Omicron variant that is dominating the Covid scene right now is only available to people 12 years and older. Children five and up can get other types of boosters, and children can get their first vaccines at the age of six months.
The respiratory illness season has hit kids hard in particular.
“We’re seeing busy emergency departments, particularly for kids right now. And part of that is related to all the respiratory illness that we are seeing, and part of that is just a health care system that’s had a really challenging couple of years,” said Summers.
“It’s frustrating I’m sure for many that we’re not able to wave goodbye to Covid. It feels like we haven’t had a break, and that I think is understandable. But it really helps when members of the community… do what they can to reduce transmission because it does keep people out of emergency departments and primary care as well.”
The best protection are vaccines, said Summers. He also reminded people to never go in crowded public places if you have any symptoms, and said a mask is a reasonable idea for enclosed spaces while spread is high.
“I think given the prevalence of Covid in the community and the prevalence of influenza and other respiratory illnesses, it’s a helpful tool that certainly I’m considering using and I think it’s one that’s pretty easy to use, and one that we’re actually pretty familiar with now,” said Summers.
Chris Gareau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Middlesex Banner