Vaccine eligibility expands this week

·3 min read

Grocery and liquor store workers in Chatham-Kent are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine as the province expanded eligibility Tuesday.

People aged 40 and up also became eligible province-wide. Chatham-Kent residents in this age group could already register for the vaccine after the municipality worked its way through older participants.

“We had lots of vaccines left over so our age criteria dropped faster than the province did,” says Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby. “We’re certainly, if not way out in front, at least in the front pack of how we’re doing this here,” he says of Chatham-Kent’s vaccine effort.

Colby says last week 80 per cent of local residents over age 60 had been vaccinated. May 10 there were 36,310 people who'd been vaccinated, with 1,626 receiving both doses. Colby says the government has told him Chatham-Kent will receive enough doses to observe the 16 week waiting period between shots.

The vaccine push is especially important in helping ease restrictions at LTC homes. They’ve experienced stricter rules since the current lockdown began, but these can be eased once a certain percentage of residents and staff are vaccinated.

Coly also spoke to tests being conducted to see if someone can swap vaccines for their second dose. The question is being raised in the scenario any version of the vaccine should run low.

“Until that happens and until there’s good evidence we need to stick with what we know works, which is boosting with the same vaccine you got the primary dose with,” says Colby. “It is highly likely that it will be successful to be able to mix those because the spectrum of antigens that the vaccines were designed to induce immune responses against are very similar… but I do not advocate going ahead and doing that until there is scientific evidence to support it.”

Monday there were nine new COVID cases with eight resolved, leaving 33 active. Workplaces outbreaks were down to one.

Chatham-Kent’s comparatively low numbers have recently led to a high volume of calls to public health by people demanding an end or justification to continued lockdown. Colby implored people to lay off the health department.

“I would ask that people have some toleration and some courtesy. Please don’t call the health unit to express anger because this is something that is provincial, we don’t have any local control over this,” says Colby. “The people that are making these decisions on a provincial basis are really trying to look out for the safety and welfare of the people across the province.”

“We have to do our bit locally and I would ask that people try and understand that and not express anger to the people at the health unit who are simply trying to keep the people of Chatham-Kent safe,” he says.

May 6, Chatham Hospital’s ICU was 70 per cent full with the critical care facilities at 81 per cent. Nine COVID patients were in hospital with five from Chatham-Kent and four from away. Two patients are ventilated.

Last week Chatham-Kent Health Alliance President and CEO Lori Marshall says there’s been 10 patient transfers to the hospital from the GTA and regionally under new provincial orders meant to help overburdened hospitals. Marshall says they receive one or two patients a day.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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