Nepean retirement home Ottawa's 1st to get vaccine

·3 min read

A Nepean retirement home where 10 people have died from COVID-19 is the first in the city to begin vaccinating residents and staff against the illness, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says.

"As part of Phase 1 of the COVID vaccine rollout in Ottawa, Valley Stream Retirement Home was identified as a high-risk retirement home and the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was made available and administered to staff, essential caregivers and residents on Jan. 17," OPH confirmed Thursday.

OPH finished administering the first vaccine doses to residents in long-term care homes in mid-January, but Valley Stream is the first high-risk retirement home to be offered the same opportunity.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Ottawa's general manager of emergency and protective services Anthony Di Monte said that while second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be delayed for some, one high-risk retirement home and one "congregate home with older adults" would still have a chance to receive first doses of the vaccine.

In total, 51 of Valley Stream's 134 residents have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began on Jan. 2. Thirteen of those cases are now considered resolved. Another 27 staff members have also tested positive, 10 of which are now resolved.

Jennifer Rose's 80-year-old father Richard Currie lives at Valley Stream, but has tested negative so far.

Submitted by Jennifer Rose
Submitted by Jennifer Rose

"I'm obviously grateful and thankful that they're getting vaccines, and [with] my dad still testing negative, I'm happy he's getting that protection," Rose said, adding she's sympathetic to families that haven't been so lucky.

"I just find it's so hard for the families that did lose somebody to this," she said. "They were close to being able to get that vaccine. It's just heartbreaking that it was almost within their grasp."

Cleaning protocols enhanced

Revera, which owns numerous long-term care facilities in Ontario and across North America, said it's working closely with OPH to maintain proper protocols and limit the spread of the virus at Valley Stream.

"We are doing enhanced cleaning at Valley Stream, frequently disinfecting high touch surfaces like handrails and doors, common areas and staff rooms," the company's chief medical officer, Dr. Rhonda Collins, wrote.

Collins said all residents are being monitored and tested if they show symptoms, while staff are screened at the beginning and end of their shifts. Visits are restricted to essential caregivers, as well as essential visits for palliative residents.

"We recognize how difficult these measures are for residents and their families, and we appreciate their patience and understanding as we put these precautions in place for the safety of our residents," Collins wrote.

According to OPH, the recent delay of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine "did not impact the administration of vaccines at Valley Stream."

Earl Brown, professor emeritus of virology at the University of Ottawa, said while it's important to administer the second dose within a specific period of time after the first shot, giving more vulnerable people a single dose may prove the best option — as long as that second dose isn't too far behind.

"It really comes down to maximizing your benefit," Brown said. "So numbers-wise, it generally has tended to favour spreading out the first dose and getting the second dose in somewhat of a timely manner. "

But while the two vaccines both report higher than 90 per cent effectiveness in stopping the virus, Brown said it's believed they're less effective for older people.

"I think the unknowns loom larger with this group."