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Details on COVID-19 vaccinations for those 80-plus coming next week: MLHU

Mary House, 80, receives the COVID-19 vaccine from Alyssa Zaderey in Calgary on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Alberta Health Services

The COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the London, Ont., region is set to expand once again, this time to all residents age 80 and over.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Chris Mackie says the Middlesex-London Health Unit anticipates “being able to move into the over-80 crowd sometime mid-March.”

“Maybe sort of early-mid-March rather than later-mid-March,” he said during a pandemic update on Thursday.

“Look for more information about that Monday or Tuesday of next week.”

Read more: Should all seniors get the COVID-19 vaccine before essential workers?

Mackie said the MLHU has plans in place to notify seniors, including support from local media and collaboration with primary care providers and other health care providers who would be able to easily identify those 80 and older.

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“The other thing we’ll be doing is we’ll be asking family and friends to make sure that people who they know that are that are eligible over 80 are able to get an appointment as quickly as possible, help facilitate them making an appointment.

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The health unit is also preparing to handle “a flood of calls” when the time comes for appointment-booking.

“The City of London has actually offered their emergency operations centre, so huge thanks to them, and some of their staff to help with the staffing the phone lines for the vaccine booking and definitely we’ll make sure that the website is ready to go for the volumes we expect.”

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On Friday, retired Gen. Rick Hillier said that the Ontario vaccine task force is aiming to start vaccinating people in the age group of 80 or older by mid-March, and will start reaching out to people soon.

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A firmer timeline was announced Wednesday, with Hillier saying Ontarians aged 80 and older will start receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the third week of March and the province plans to target seniors in decreasing five-year age increments until 60-year-olds get the shot in July.

An online booking system and service desk will become available on March 15.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, believes that timeline is a “worst-case scenario.” He says if vaccines from Novavax, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca are approved in Canada, then vaccination efforts can ramp up “massively.”

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“I think that we will see much more rapid vaccination and much earlier dates than what were reported yesterday. Yes, it’s not false, it’s just the worst-case scenario, which I think you always have to have that in the back of your mind,” he said.

“But on the other hand, it’s a very unlikely scenario. We’ll have people over the age of 60 vaccinated far sooner than July.”

Bogoch noted that the vaccines from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax do not require the cold-chain system like the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. As well, the Johnson & Johnson vaccination only requires one dose, which he says would “really speed up the process.”

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— With files from The Canadian Press’ Holly McKenzie-Sutter.

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