Coronavirus: HKPR Health Unit expects first phase of vaccines to arrive in early February

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit. File

The acting medical officer of health for Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit says the agency has been told to prepare for the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine in its jurisdiction in early February.

The first phase of vaccinations will be for those working and living in long-term care, health-care workers and those working in chronic home care.

“It’s the one huge bright light that we have. It will be the magic bullet if we can get the vaccine into arms before people get sick with the virus,” said Dr. Ian Gemmill.

READ MORE: Peterborough Regional Health Centre could double critical care beds with ‘nonconventional spaces’

On a media teleconference on Wednesday, Dr. Gemmill noted that supply of both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is limited but HKPR is in the queue.

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Dr. Gemmill also said HKPR doesn’t have the requirements to house the vaccines, which have stringent freezer needs, and that it’s likely to be transferred from nearby health facilities once it’s ready for this area.

“It’s expected the province will expand phase one into all areas of the province,” he said. “We hope to start phase one in early February. That is subject to change based on availability. Things can change. We’re planning for it and dusting off our mass immunization plan and working with partners in the health and municipal sector to be ready.”

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Dr. Gemmill noted phase two, which includes essential workers, older adults and then eventually anyone in the community who wants to be vaccinated, would start in the spring or early summer, subject to change.

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“Now how that will be done is still to be determined,” Dr. Gemmill said, “what venues will be used, whether it’s drive-thrus –there are all kinds of possibilities here.”

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“It’s all about beating this virus in this race and we’ll do our part to make sure everything can be done to win that race.”

“The sooner the better,” City of Kawartha Lakes Mayor Andy Letham said. “The sooner we can get these vaccines to our front-line workers and to our vulnerable residents in these (long-term care) homes, then I won’t say it’s the end of our problems, but it will be one less area we will have to worry about and it’s a big worry.”

Letham said the municipality’s emergency services staff are “mobilized and ready to go” once the vaccine arrives.

“They’ll play a support role. When we know what we’re getting, we’ll make the necessary adjustments to get this rolled out as soon as possible.”

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In an interview with Global News Peterborough on Tuesday, Ross Memorial Hospital president and CEO Kelly Isfan said she was concerned with the lack of concrete dates for vaccine rollout locally.

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“We’re preparing for vaccine rollout but we’re unclear as to when we’ll see it, not only for our community but for our health-care workers, in both the hospital and long-term care,” she said.  “It’s a concern. If you want a seamless system of critical care, then I think we need a seamless system for vaccine rollout.”

Isfan said the hospital was also “ready to go” when the vaccine arrives.