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Supply still slowing Hamilton, Niagara’s COVID-19 vaccination plans

Vaccination bookings are now open for residents 70 and up in Peterborough Public Health's jurisdiction. Denis Thaust /ABACAPRESS.COM

Hamilton’s emergency operations centre (EOC) chief said the city’s biggest concern in administering COVID-19 vaccinations among the population in the next few weeks will be the limits in the supply chain.

EOC director Paul Johnson told Global News on Monday that the city is ready to get more shots in people’s arms but said the major concern over the next three to four weeks will be the managing of supply.

“We’re worried about the delay,” Johnson said. “We just would like more.”

Read more: Hamilton closes outbreak at Macassa Lodge, suggests start of third COVID-19 wave in Ontario

Johnson said with the recent allocation of staff and the set up of large and small-scale vaccination sites, the city is ready to vaccinate up to 10,000 people a day.

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“We’re going to be at 10,000 a day from a readiness perspective. But the reality is we don’t have 10,000 doses a day to deliver,” Johnson said.

The city’s medical officer of health said challenges with supply have also had an effect on vaccinating some segments of the population who are eligible for shots, particularly a number of community health care workers.

“That is the case because we have had challenges both on the vaccine supply side and on needing more vaccine to work through those priority groups,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said.

“In some cases, it’s because people belong to a lower vaccine priority group.”

Hamilton had administered over 58,000 COVID-19 vaccines as of Monday. Close to 14,000 doses have been given out by mobile teams and around 44,000 through fixed clinics.

Read more: Ontario COVID-19 vaccine portal launches with nearly 100K bookings, some errors

In Niagara, public health had administered close to 13,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines for that region as of March 15.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health, said Niagara is “making good progress” with over 8,000 shots delivered to people 80 and over — that’s over one-third of that demographic, according to the 2019 census.

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“So 8,000 of this population is already done, leaving us about 20,000 or so additional residents that we need to vaccinate over these next few weeks,” Hirji said.

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Another 3,600 in the 80-plus age range are currently booked in with public health to receive their first shot.

However, clinics across the region will not be running daily when the first one opens in Niagara Falls on Thursday. The 11 clinics will operate on a rotating schedule with a different municipality administering doses each day due to limited supply.

“We are actually using up all our vaccine, basically running mostly single clinics through this period of time,” Hirji said.

Canada’s public health agency, responsible for acquiring and delivering vaccines to the provinces, is still experiencing slowdowns with smaller-than-normal shipments.

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Only 445,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses will arrive in Canada over the next seven days while bi-weekly deliveries of the Moderna vaccine will not resume until next week.

Shots of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose inoculation are not expected until April.

Read more: Ontario Hospital Association, science advisor say province in 3rd COVID-19 wave amid spike in variant cases

On Friday, public procurement minister Anita Anand said Canada is on track to receive seven million vaccine doses from the various companies by the end of April, with the expectation of about 37 million doses delivered by the end of June.

Hamilton's vaccine call centre does not have 'backdoor' for bookings

With the province’s new online booking system — http://www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine — going live on Monday, the city alerted residents that they do not have a “backdoor” for vaccine bookings when the operation goes down.

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Hours after the system went up on Monday, a number of users contacted the city to report error messages after filling out the website’s vaccine booking forms.

EOC boss Johnson said that the high call volumes were tied to technical issues and that city operators with Hamilton’s vaccine hotline cannot book appointments when the system is not operating since they book through the same portal.

 

“We cannot book you any faster, and when the online booking tool is down, we can’t book anyone in either,” Johnson said.

The city said the hotline is only for those who do not have internet access, have issues accessing an online device, or do not have a current health card.

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Read more: Canada to see lull in vaccine deliveries before dramatic increase week of March 22

Johnson also asked those who are not eligible for a shot to refrain from calling an operator.

“When people are calling with all sorts of other questions, it just slows down those who really do need to book,” Johnson said.

Brant County not using province's online booking system

Not all of the province’s 34 health units are using the province’s online booking system. The Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) alerted residents on Monday that it will continue to use its own local booking system for the immediate future.

In a release, the BCHU said part of the reason was its head start on vaccinating segments of the general public under the age of 80.

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At present, the province’s system only books individuals who are 80 and over.

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