SW Public Health broadens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to 55 and older

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Southwestern Public Health says individuals 55 and older are eligible in Oxford County, Elgin County and St. Thomas to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments.

The eligibility could soon be 50-and-older, although that announcement had not been made as of Monday.

The new Mass Immunization Clinic at the Tillsonburg Community Centre’s Lions Auditorium opened on April 27. Nine and paramedics from Oxford County Paramedic Services began administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (180 per day). The Tillsonburg clinic is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Friday.

The vaccination process at the clinic is easy to follow, said paramedic Jessica Coloumbe.

“They ask the COVID-19 screening questions when you come in (the community centre north entrance). This is registration, where they will check the health card and patient’s information,” she said.

There is a waiting area available with safely distanced chairs at the north end of the auditorium, although they were not in use on the 27th. People coming in on opening day were seated in one of three rows of ‘cubicles’ or numbered stations (each row has six ‘pods’).

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“We have two paramedics on each side who will be vaccinating,” said Coulombe. “Once they’re done, they sit for 15 minutes.”

The one-way flow of traffic is clearly marked to the checkout desks, manned by Southwestern Public Health staff, and exit (on the east side of the Lions Auditorium).

Chairs are sanitized by Town of Tillsonburg recreation staff between shots.

Sean Van Alphen, Oxford County Paramedic Services, said up to 60 paramedics will be in the shift rotation for the Tillsonburg clinic.

“At the height of this (clinic), we’re going to have seven paramedics here full-time vaccinating,” said Van Alphen. “You need a lot of staff onboard to build that rotation.”

In addition to working at the clinic, Oxford paramedics have active community paramedic and community vaccination programs ‘on the go.’

“Everybody’s kind of stepping up to make it work,” said Van Alphen. “We all know it’s unique times and it takes a large group to make things happen.

BOOK AN APPOINTMENT

To book an appointment go to www.covidvaccinelm.ca online or call 226-289-3560 (toll free 1-888-333-2175).

Individuals who are having difficulty with the booking system are welcome to add their name to the region’s ‘Help List.’ Southwestern Public Health staff will assist those on the list with appointment booking. The Help List can be found at https://forms.swpublichealth.ca/COVID-19-Help-List or access it by calling 1-800-922-0096 extension 9 and leaving a message.

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Although initially the clinic was limited to 180 vaccinations per day, that is expected to ramp up in coming weeks/months.

“The limiting factor for us as paramedics is the access to vaccine,” said Van Alphen. “If you told me that I could have 2,000 vaccines, I would build an army tent out there (in the parking lot) and make it happen. There is no limit to what we are willing to do. But that amount of vaccine just isn’t here yet. I’m thinking we could do at least 600 per day in here.”

The Tillsonburg clinic will remain open as long as people are coming in for vaccinations.

“Until it’s over,” said Van Alphen.

This week’s new 50-plus eligibility criteria is aligned with the province’s announcement that a stable, reliable increase in vaccine supply would ramp up the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination schedule.

“Those in their 50s are often supporting elderly parents, involved with their own children or grandchildren, and working,” said medical officer of health Dr. Joyce Lock.

“There are many possible points of exposure and so we are very pleased that vaccine eligibility has opened this week to those who are 55-plus. We’ve got three clinics in operation (Tillsonburg, St. Thomas, Woodstock) and we’re looking forward to welcoming you through our doors over the coming weeks.”

For residents of identified hot spots, such as the N5H postal code (Aylmer area), individuals 18-plus also became eligible.

Also, all adults ages 40 and older are also eligible to receive vaccinations at participating primary care providers (family doctors/physicians) and participating pharmacies. They include Coward Pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, Tillsonburg Care Pharmacy (IDA), Tillsonburg Remedy’s RX (at Zehrs) and the Walmart Pharmacy.

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