Priority groups will soon be able to access COVID vaccines in Muskoka.
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) medical officer of health, Dr. Gardner, said in his weekly briefing today that vaccine clinics will be opening across the region next week.
More details on the clinics and who will be eligible for vaccines in the next phase will be released by the health unit later this week, but Dr. Gardner did provide general information.
Those eligible for appointments initially are based on the priority groups identified by the province, and will include residents older than 85 years, Indigenous adults older than 55 years in First Nations communities, those receiving adult chronic homecare, and high-priority healthcare workers such as those treating COVID-19 cases in institutions or the community.
People booking appointments will be screened to ensure they are eligible, Dr. Gardner noted.
There will be two clinic locations in Muskoka, but where those will be have not yet been announced.
The vaccine will be allocated to each clinic within the health unit’s region based primarily on the percentage of people in each area who are eligible, but that the health unit will also consider the level of transmission of the virus within each community.
It will take several months for the health unit to vaccinate people in this next phase, he added, in part due to vaccine supply which will still be limited at the beginning of March. The health unit will use the early weeks of the clinics to fine-tune the operation of those facilities, he said.
Residents from outside an area, including seasonal residents and those working in communities where they don’t live full-time, will also be allowed to access vaccines provided they are in the priority groups that have been identified for immunization at that time. A resident of Muskoka could also travel to a clinic in another location like Barrie to be vaccinated.
“This is a mobile society, and we also know that a lot of people go to Muskoka who are seasonal residents and we need to plan for more of that as you get into the warmer weather,” said Dr. Gardner. “In terms of…how much vaccine we would provide at those clinics, we need to take that into account, because if you don’t immunize people that move around then your community remains at risk. The people that come into your community, if they are not immunized and they can’t get access to it, then transmission can still happen via those individuals. It’s in our interest to immunize people, even if they are moving around.”
He noted that two Muskoka cases of a variant of concern have now been identified. Although the health unit will not reveal the location of those cases, Dr. Gardner did confirm that they are a result of contact with people travelling from Barrie for work.
Dr. Gardner also said that he is concerned about the rise in the number of cases of COVID variants and urged people to stay home as much as possible. Based on the increase in cases in the region, he may also soon recommend to the province that Simcoe Muskoka be moved into a Grey-Lockdown zone.
The health unit will release full details about the COVID vaccine clinics and how appointments can be booked later this week.
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