Health officials in Windsor-Essex were expecting to vaccinate their fifth seniors' facility on Monday, as the coronavirus devastates long-term care and retirement homes in the region.
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit CEO and chief nursing officer Theresa Marentette said vaccinations at the homes got underway on Jan. 1.
As of Monday, five of the region's 19 long-term care homes have been vaccinated. The rest of the senior facilities are expected to be completed in the next seven to 10 days, according to WECHU medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed.
The vaccinations are starting with homes that are not currently in outbreak. Essential caregivers of residents can receive the vaccine as well.
The struggle, according to Ahmed, is the long-term care homes that are currently in major outbreaks and how they can vaccinate them.
20 homes in outbreak
There are currently 20 homes in outbreak, out of just over 40 in the region.
Seven homes in the region have dozens of cases among residents and staff.
The facility hardest hit by the virus, The Village at St. Clair, has had 127 resident cases and 47 staff cases. According to provincial government statistics, 24 of its residents have died.
On Monday, the health unit reported 16 new deaths, 13 of which were residents at long-term care facilities. A staff member at a home also died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, health officials said.
Ahmed strongly rejected any suggestion that the rollout of the vaccine, which arrived in the region last Wednesday, was delayed, calling it "unfair" and "inaccurate."
"Just to say that, I think it's utterly disrespectful. It's shameful for anyone who is thinking that we are just sitting and we are not caring about it."
Staff, he said, have been working day and night, 14- to 15-hour shifts.
Preparation for administering the vaccines started weeks ago, Marentette said.
'So much hope'
The manager of one home, Amica Riverside, said the incoming arrival of the vaccine has provided hope.
"We're just excited. I mean, this has given us so much hope," said Lisa Rufo, general manager of Amica Riverside.
"It's been a very, very, very long, difficult 10 months for our residents, for our staff, really for the world."
The home is ready to go whenever they get the greenlight from the health unit, according to Rufo. She expects it will be soon.
Rufo praised with the efforts from the health unit and Windsor Regional Hospital in rolling out the vaccine.
The majority of the facility's staff, about 85 per cent have already been vaccinated, she said.
She said she'd like to see residents receive the shot quickly but understands how public health is prioritizing homes according to risk.
The home, which is newer, does not have a memory care unit or shared units, which pose a bigger risk for COVID-19 spread, she explained.
Among the residents getting vaccinated in Windsor-Essex is Lorraine Goddard's mother.
Goddard, who is the CEO of United Way Windsor-Essex County, told CBC News Monday that her mom, who lives in a local long-term care home, is happy to be getting the vaccine.
Goddard said her mom was actually transferred into long-term care during the pandemic and had to self-isolate for 14 days in a new environment.
"It was really difficult for her to understand, 'why is this happening to me,' but she understands that there is a pandemic and she understands that she was at risk of getting very ill with it and so for her she is happy that she's able to get the vaccine because she hopes that what that will bring is the ability for her family, all of us, to go and see her because obviously it's very lonely for her right now," Goddard said.