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Retired Wellington County manager answers call to run vaccination hub

In this edition of Helpers, Paul Johnson's knowledge of the right people and the right places made him a suitable candidate as the county's vaccination efforts coordinator
Paul Johnson came out of retirement to take on the role of vaccination effort coordinator.

FERGUS – The most intensive vaccination program in the history of the region requires efficiency to be truly effective. 

That’s where Paul Johnson comes in as the vaccination efforts coordinator.

The Palmerston-born and Mount Forest raised man worked with the county for 37 years, mostly as the operations manager, before a short-lived retirement in October.

All his trips in 2020 got cancelled and he didn’t book any for this year, which Johnson said was a good thing because he’s “kind of tied up now.”

In an interview at the mass vaccination at the CW Community Sportsplex, Johnson said he got a call from CAO Scott Wilson in late-January asking him to consider taking this role before he accepted on Feb. 1. 

“When Dr. Mercer from WDGPH asked for the county’s help, we took it very seriously,” said warden Kelly Linton in an email. 

“County CAO Scott Wilson and I knew that we needed someone with extensive logistical and project management skills to quarterback the County’s entire involvement in the WDGPH’s massive vaccination effort.”

Johnson explained the position as a logistics role. He makes sure the facility is set-up, properly managed and has sufficient supplies. 

He said his prior experience has been a benefit in this role as he knows the right people and the right places.

“I know the mayors and county councillors, so it’s pretty easy for me to communicate with one and I typically know the facilities because I’ve been in them before,” Johnson explained. 

He explained choosing a location for this is all about making sure there is sufficient space now and additional space to expand when supply ramps up.

Johnson is also involved in setting up other sites like a pop-up clinic at the Mount Forest & District Sports Complex scheduled to run on Friday.

Knowing the right spots meant it was easy for Johnson to be able to scout out locations. He said he looked at eight and has narrowed that down. 

“We’ll use the arena in Mount Forest ... but the plan is to do Palmerston, Drayton, Harriston and Arthur as well,” Johnson explained. 

“If we have sufficient vaccines and a sufficient number of people to be able to help out, that might expand to other sites as well.”

The logistics get tricky when considering the future. Johnson said those who get their first shot on Friday will be scheduled for their second on April 1. 

At this point, he said it is possible there might be sufficient supply for everyone to come back and to have a new batch of people to come through as well. 

As of now, the vaccination and recovery area are on the same ice pad but more supply will mean Johnson will have to put the next plan into action.

“They’ll basically cover the whole floor with vaccinators and use the other arena for recovery,” Johnson said. 

He praised the volunteers and workers who are helping with this effort as “angels from heaven.”

“They’re covering all the people who need it right now, the over 80s, the nursing staff and the people who are taking care of the people who are vaccinated as well,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said he’s not upset about coming out of retirement, in fact he’s happy to have something to do. 

He joked that his Fergus condo was feeling a bit crowded with his also-retired wife. 

“I think she was eager for me to go but she’s quite happy when I come home at the end of the day,” Johnson said.