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Some eligible long-term care staff are declining vaccine

Dr. Nicola Mercer said on Wednesday some staff at long-term care homes in the area are opting to not be vaccinated and the health unit is finding it challenging to vaccinate staff at some area hospitals
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Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health head office on Chancellor's Way. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday file photo

Vaccination efforts are continuing in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, but not all people who are eligible to receive a vaccine are getting the shot.

WDG Public Health is currently pre-registering people using its own registration and booking system that has allowed the local health unit to be days ahead of much of the province in terms of vaccinating people in the over-80 age group.

Speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Board of Health, Dr. Nicola Mercer said WDG Public Health will not be adopting the provincial registration and booking system when it is introduced on March 15.

Mercer said the system being used locally has been very effective and continuing to use it past the March 15 date will help alleviate pressure on the provincial system.

“There are a number of large health units that are also not going to be using the provincial system because they already have their own system up and running,” said Mercer.

As of Wednesday, 6,445 vaccinations have been completed within the health unit, with 17,964 total doses administered. WDG Public Health is expecting about 3,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive locally for each week in the month of March.

Although WDG Public Health will not be adopting the provincial registration and booking system, it will be uploading the local information to it.

Mercer said vaccination of residents of long-term care homes is almost complete. There is some lag on second doses because of the death of some residents and because new residents are receiving their first dose and having to wait for a second.

“Every resident who wanted a dose has received one,” said Mercer.

In some homes as many as 50 to 70 per cent of staff have chosen to not receive a vaccination. Mercer said that number is not unique to the health unit and all staff who change their minds will be offered a shot.

Mercer said the health unit has also had challenges in vaccinating eligible staff at hospitals in Wellington County.

“We are really hoping to make inroads in the Groves and North Wellington health care hospitals, but they have not been as easy to either pre-register or book appointments,” said Mercer. “We had clinics for 100 people and we only had nine show up once.”

She said 500 appointment slots are available Friday and Saturday for those eligible staff to book.

Appointments for eligible staff at Guelph General Hospital and Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville were more successful, said Mercer.

“They were releasing hundreds of staff to attend our clinics, so that worked well,” she said.

Vaccinating long-term care residents and staff is relatively simple, said Mercer, because WDG Public Health knows where they are. 

“That was a program that was actually fairly easy to administer as we didn’t need and kind of booking or administration system because we could go right into their homes,” she said.

As the number of eligible groups has increased that necessitated developing the registration and booking system.

The list for which groups are now eligible to pre-book for vaccinations is growing and now include community healthcare workers serving the general public, like those working in dentistry, pharmacies, diagnostic imaging and social work, as well as other groups like front line police officers.

The current list and pre-registering information can be found here.

Mercer said WDG Public Health’s phone system was overloaded with 15,000 calls during the early days of pre-registering, but the health unit has invested in a new phone system and a new phone number to help support a higher volume of calls. She notes the new system still won’t be able to handle another influx of 15,000 calls should it happen again.