The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine were delivered to the Niagara Region Tuesday afternoon and distribution will begin shortly, said Niagara Health. However, no vaccine clinics have been announced for west Niagara yet.
“We are prepared to get doses into arms as soon as the shipment arrives,” Niagara Region Public Health said in an advisory.
Niagara Health and Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services have been working together on the region’s vaccination plan, starting with priority populations identified by the Ontario government for Phase 1 of COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We have planned aggressively and are well prepared to begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine in Niagara,” says Lynn Guerriero, President and Interim CEO of Niagara Health.
“With rising numbers of COVID-19 in the community and in the hospital, the vaccine will help us save lives, protect our hospital services, and beat this pandemic. Every vaccine dose in an arm reduces the risk of the virus spreading in our region.”
First vaccinations will be administered to front-line healthcare workers in long-term care and high-risk retirement homes and at a vaccine clinic at the St. Catharines Site. Niagara Health clinics wil be opened in Niagara Falls, Welland, and other sites.
No COVID-19 vaccine clinics have been announced for west Niagara communities yet. However, NRPH expects that will change and says to watch for future announcements on when and where vaccine availability will start in Grimsby, West Lincoln, Lincoln, Pelham, and Wainfleet.
Small teams will also be deployed to long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes to support their staff vaccinating the residents under their care. This uses the same system that gets almost all residents immunized to influenza each year.
“It is a relief that vaccines are finally arriving in Niagara. Throughout this pandemic, residents of long-term care homes and retirement homes have suffered the brunt of this pandemic,” says Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting Medical Officer at Niagara Region Public Health.
“Almost 80 per cent of those who’ve died in Niagara—150 people in our community—have been among these residents; 72 of them have died in the last 3 weeks alone. (The) vaccine will let us immunize these residents and their care providers, and begin to end this tragedy.”
Groups to receive doses will continually expand over the coming months. Vaccination for the general public will follow in the third phase of the provincial framework for vaccine distribution. That is expected in late spring.
Information on the province’s vaccine implementation plan: www.ontario.ca/page/ontarios-vaccine-distribution-implementation-plan
Updates on Niagara’s Vaccination Clinic: www.niagarahealth.on.ca/vaccinationclinic