Prolonged booster eligibility is straining the capability of the London-area well being unit

0
99

Breadcrumb Trail Links

Public health officials in southwestern Ontario are seeing a surge in demand for COVID-19 booster shots given the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant, a surge that will occur as the province institutes a massive expansion of third-dose eligibility.

Publication date:

December 15, 2021December 15, 20214 minutes read With it difficult to get appointments for a COVID-19 booster shot at mass vaccination clinics in the London area, people are queuing on Wednesday to get a shot at a pop-up clinic in Masonville Place, run by the Middlesex-London Health Unit is operated. Alex Summers, Acting Health Officer for Middlesex-London, said more appointments at the mass vaccination clinics are being added. He urges people over 50 to book their booster shots before Monday, when all Ontario residents over 50 can start booking them. Photo taken on Wednesday December 15, 2021. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

content of the article

Public health officials in southwestern Ontario are seeing a surge in demand for COVID-19 booster shots given the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant, a spike that will occur as the province rolls out a massive expansion of third-dose eligibility.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Wednesday that all adults aged 18 and over who are three months past their second vaccination will be eligible to book booster doses starting Monday, two weeks ahead of the province’s original target.

Ford, who vowed an aggressive offense against the Omicron threat, also shortened the minimum time between the second and third doses from 168 days, roughly six months, to 84 days to receive more immunity-boosting gunshots.

advertising 2

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is rushing to build capacity to deal with the impending spate of newly qualified booster recipients, acting health officer Alex Summers said on Wednesday, but people should manage their expectations around appointment availability.

“Our focus will remain on the over-50s as they are the most likely to end up in hospital. They’re the people we really need to make sure they get boosters,” Summers said.

“The provincial capacity to vaccinate so many people with a dime is overwhelmed. We will work on adding dates.”

The health unit said Monday it will reopen its mass vaccination facility at Earl Nichols Arena on January 6 to accommodate the expected January 4 booster dose expansion. The health unit is unlikely to be able to delay its opening date, Summers said.

advertising 3

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

“If we can, we will do it. Given the capacity constraints we are facing, this will not be an easy task for us,” he said. “It’s not just about immunizers. It takes a whole village to run these clinics.”

Summers is urging people 50 and older to snag an appointment by Sunday night to help beat the rush. He also encourages people to seek refresher appointments through pharmacies or their GPs if they can’t get to a clinic.

Ontario is expanding its eligibility for booster doses earlier in response to the Omicron variant, a strain that is causing case numbers to double every three days, according to the province’s independent COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

The Omicron strain is now the dominant variant in the London area, just 10 days after the first cases were identified in the city.

advertising 4

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

In Ontario, third COVID-19 vaccine doses were made available in August to transplant recipients, select immune-compromised patients and residents of high-risk long-term care and retirement homes.

Seniors aged 70 and older in the community, Indigenous peoples and select healthcare workers were eligible for third doses in early November. Adults aged 50 and over could book their third dose on Monday.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit has booked thousands of refresher appointments for adults aged 50 and over since they became eligible on Monday, Summers said.

People wait in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic on Masonville Place run by the Middlesex-London Health Unit on Wednesday.  Demand for booster shots People wait in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic on Masonville Place run by the Middlesex-London Health Unit on Wednesday. Demand for booster shots “has increased tremendously,” said Alex Summers, acting health officer for Middlesex-London, as the highly contagious Omicron variant increases local cases. Photo taken on Wednesday December 15, 2021. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

The strong start to rollout for the over-50s comes after muted demand for booster shots through November, with 28 per cent of residents aged 70-74 getting the December 11 dose. The local third dose rate is 30 percent for seniors 75-79 and 34 percent for those over 80.

advertising 5

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

Demand is encouraging and may have been driven by concerns about Omicron in the city, Summers said.

“Demand has increased tremendously, which is good to see,” he said. “The arrival of Omicron has certainly increased the urgency for a booster shot. The booster dose appears to provide additional protection against symptomatic infection.”

Uptake of booster vaccinations in London among seniors lags slightly behind other health units in the region. Huron Perth Public Health has 43 per cent of people aged 80 and over with the third vaccination and 34 per cent of those 70 to 79 with the booster shot.

About 40 per cent of Chatham-Kent public health workers aged 70 to 79 are receiving a third dose, while 50 per cent of those over 80 have received their booster.

advertising 6

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

Booster appointments for those aged 50 and over in Chatham-Kent booked up in the first week of the launch, prompting the health department to add a full day slot on December 20 to meet demand.

Southwestern Public Health, the health unit in Elgin and Oxford counties, has administered more than 18,000 third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, said Jaime Fletcher, manager of the COVID-19 mass immunization task force.

About 36 percent of seniors aged 80 and over in Elgin and Oxford counties have received a booster shot, and 33 percent of people aged 70 to 79 have had their extra dose, Fletcher said.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit on Wednesday reported 65 new COVID-19 cases and one death, a man in his 50s with no connection to long-term care or a retirement home.

advertising 7

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

content of the article

The London Health Sciences Center has 13 COVID-19 patients in hospital, including fewer than five in intensive care. The number of COVID-19 patients at the LHSC has remained relatively constant over the past few weeks.

Summers is urging people to cancel their holiday social gatherings and limit their close contacts. Adding boosters, while important, will not be enough to stave off the recent wave of the pandemic.

“Given the pace of Omicron’s growth, vaccination will be a key variable, but it will not be enough on its own,” Summers said. “It’s time to cancel plans. It’s time to shift things. It is time to limit our close internal contacts as much as possible.”

[email protected]

Twitter.com/JenatLFPress

Share this article on your social network

Advertisement

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

Display 1

This ad has not yet loaded, but your article continues below.

By clicking the subscribe button, you agree to receive the above newsletter from Postmedia Network Inc. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails. Postmedia Network Inc | 365 Bloor Street East, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 3L4 | 416-383-2300