‘Isolated and worried’: Muskoka retirement home resident still waiting for COVID-19 vaccine

Donna Irwin, 84, lives with her husband Howard Irwin, 88, at Granite Ridge Retirement Residence in Gravenhurst, Ont. Provided/Irwin family

An 84-year-old woman living in a Gravenhurst, Ont., retirement home with her 88-year-old husband said she feels “isolated and worried” as residents continue to await their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus immunizations were originally slated to begin for Granite Ridge residents on Jan. 20, but they were cancelled that morning, according Donna Irwin, the 84-year-old retirement home resident.

Read more: Stay-at-home order lifts in Simcoe Muskoka. Here’s what to expect

“We feel alone — we can’t see our families,” Irwin said. “It makes one very anxious.”

On Wednesday, Granite Ridge’s operations director, Jackie Payne, confirmed to Global News that all residents of the home will receive their first round of vaccinations by end of day Feb. 26.

On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, said the health unit is aiming to vaccinate all retirement home residents in the region with at least their first dose by Feb. 27.

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“They’ll do a whole-day clinic if they have to. They usually come in about 8:30, and then they just stay until everyone’s done,” Payne said, adding second vaccine doses are booked 21 to 24 days after the first dose is administered.

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Up until Tuesday, there were no group activities in the home and residents were discouraged from socializing due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Irwin said.

Now, since Muskoka has transitioned to Ontario’s red-control zone of its COVID-19 response framework, some activities have opened up for a maximum of five people, according to Irwin, who also said wearing a mask is mandatory during the activities.

“They’re really taking good care of us, but it’s still very frightening and scary and worrisome,” the 84-year-old said.

The cancellation of COVID-19 inoculations for Granite Ridge residents on Jan. 20 came just one day after it was announced that Canada would get no doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during the week of Jan. 25, creating a ripple-down effect for vaccine supply across the provinces and territories.

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Read more: ‘A senicide’: Strategic missteps, logistical hurdles plague Ontario’s early vaccine rollout

Payne said Granite Ridge staff and essential caregivers started receiving their COVID-19 immunizations in December.

“The reason they did that without the residents being done is we had to go to Barrie to get it done because Pfizer said you couldn’t move the vaccine originally,” Payne said.

“A few weeks later, they said there’s a way of moving it so you can actually take it to the residents.”

As of Tuesday, 28,366 Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka, mainly to health-care workers in local hospitals, long-term care and retirement homes.

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