Read the latest update from Gen. Rick Hillier (retired), head of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccination distribution task force, here.
Seniors aged 80 and over in Newmarket and the rest of York Region can expect to get their COVID-19 vaccines beginning in March, according to the region’s medical officer of health.
While York Region’s plan for the vaccine rollout made public Feb. 18 indicated May as the targeted date for immunization of the region’s 157,000 seniors aged 60 and over, Dr. Karim Kurji confirmed Monday that residents aged 80 and over should have their turn to roll up their sleeves beginning March 1.
“We need residents to know our ability to quickly administer vaccines is based on supply. We will roll out the vaccine as rapidly as possible as supplies become available,” he said. “We do not want to keep any vaccines in our freezers.”
All of the clinics across the region will operate by appointment only, however, once the public health unit receives the booking software from the Ministry of Health.
Seniors will soon be able to book appointments at Newmarket’s vaccination centre at Ray Twinney Recreation Complex on Eagle Street, operated by Southlake Regional Health Centre.
On Feb. 14, the Ontario government released a memo to medical officers of health and hospital CEOs outlining a new prioritization plan that included seniors aged 80 and older in phase 1, from December to March, right after groups identified as an immediate priority.
Immediate priority groups include staff, essential caregivers and residents in long-term care, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes.
Once these groups receive their first doses, first doses will subsequently be made available to adults 80 years and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes, health-care workers who have been identified as high priority, Indigenous adults, and those who receive chronic home care.
York Region completed its first dose immunization of long-term care residents by Jan. 21, as mandated by the province.
All of the available vaccines currently require two doses, three weeks apart, although that may change as single-dose vaccines are approved.
“We have already seen positive impacts of the vaccine in our long-term care and retirement homes, with the majority of residents having received both doses of the vaccine,” Kurji said in his weekly online update.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are approximately 90 per cent effective after two doses, up to seven to 14 days after the second dose, Kurji said.
The region’s updated vaccine plan is available online.
“It’s important you see the prioritization which the ministry has asked us to follow and the extensive planning that has gone into the different sorts of sites — static, mobline, drive-thru — and also having outreach activities, like strike teams that go into specific setting like congregate living setting for seniors, to vaccinate them,” said Kurji.
The plan involves physicians, public health nurses, hospitals and other community partners, he added.
“Reaching our vaccination targets will be a total team effort,” Kurji said.
“When it’s your turn we highly encourage you to get the vaccine,” he added. “COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to protect yourself from serious illness.”
The vaccine is not “live” and does not contain the COVID-19 virus itself, the vaccine does not infect you with the virus, he said.
In the meantime, residents are being urged to continue following public health measures during the current red zone to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, including staying at home as much as possible, wearing a mask and physically distancing.
“We need the community’s support. We must all keep going and take steps to avoid the spread of this virus,” Kurji said.
York Region is expected to remain in the red zone for a minimum of two weeks, and the public health unit will continue following its “strong” case management and contact tracing strategy to help contain the faster spreading variant strains of COVID-19 present in most communities.