Staff with the Northwestern Health Unit are expecting to receive their first shipment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in just a few weeks’ time.

When the shipment arrives in early February, the NWHU says they’ve been instructed by the Ministry of Health to administer the doses to residents, staff and essential caregivers at local long-term care homes.

Medical Officer of Health for the NWHU, Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, explains that the vaccine will be rolled out in three phases, and they’re currently working with local partners to implement the first phase of the plan, once the vaccine shipment arrives.

“We will adhere to the province’s plan to determine who gets the vaccine first. These decisions have been made using an Ethical Framework to ensure those who need the vaccine most, receive it first.”

The first phase of the plan calls for vaccines for healthcare workers, long-term care homes, congregate care settings and remote Indigenous communities.

Phase two is expected to include older adults, individuals living or working in high-risk congregate settings, frontline essential workers and individuals with high-risk conditions and their caregivers.

The third phase will be the remainder of the population. But Young-Hoon says despite the demand and need for the vaccine, members of lower-risk populations still shouldn’t expect a vaccine for a few months.

“I understand the desire to be immunized, however, according to timelines set out by the Province of Ontario, it looks like shots for those who are not in a high-risk group will begin in early summer.”

COVID-19 vaccines are expected to only be available for non-pregnant adults over the age of 18. However, the groups authorized to receive vaccines could change and the program could be expanded.

Furthermore, Young-Hoon says life will not immediately return to normal after the vaccine, and masking and social distancing are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

“Even once immunized, we must continue to practice all COVID-19 prevention measures. The number of shots given will be closely monitored throughout the immunization process to assess when it is safe for prevention measures to be loosened.”

Kenora MP Eric Melillo says despite the good news for the area, Ontario and Canada’s timelines for the vaccine rollout aren’t good enough.

“Vaccines aren’t coming quick enough. The government has said that they were securing vaccines for the summer and have most Canadians vaccinated by the end of September, but that timeline is not quick enough.”

Ontario says they expected 150,000 doses from the federal government in December, and will expect 350,000 by the end of this month, 600,000 by February and 1.2 million by March to finish the first phase. 15 million additional doses are expected between April and July.

“America is vaccinating at three times the pace that we are. The U.K. is vaccinating much quicker than we are. As a result, we’re lagging behind in our economic recovery and our potential to reopen. We’re pushing the government to take action.”

85-year-old Elder Eunice Fiddler of Sioux Lookout received their area’s first COVID-19 vaccine last week. Forty hospital staff and chronic care patients all received the first doses, along with staff of the William A. George Extended Care facility.

For more information:
Province offers vaccination program update
Elder receives first vaccine in NWO