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York Region ramps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Click to play video: 'York Region opens COVID-19 vaccine rollout to residents aged 75 and older' York Region opens COVID-19 vaccine rollout to residents aged 75 and older
WATCH ABOVE: The eligibility criteria has been changed in York Region to include people aged 75 and older. As Shallima Maharaj explains, it’s just one way efforts are being ramped up in the coming weeks. – Mar 18, 2021

As of Thursday morning, York Region residents aged 75 and older became eligible to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. The move is part of a regional ramp-up to get shots into arms.

The region’s medical officer of health said Thursday that just over 70 per cent of those 80 years of age and older had been immunized, and around the same percentage of health-care workers had also received a shot.

“We hardly have any vaccines left in our freezers at any given point in time,” said Dr. Karim Kurji.

Kurji explained the region currently receives around 10,000 doses every week. That number is expected to rise to 60,000 as of the week of March 22.

Read more: York Region expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to residents aged 75+

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He urged anyone who has yet to be immunized, and qualifies, to do so.

There were a number of reasons he pointed to, in an effort to explain how the region was able to expand its rollout to include a broader age group.

Among them, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s recommendation that when there is limited supply, the interval between the first and second dose be stretched up to four months.

Kurji also noted “sluggish uptake” in bookings as another factor.

“Once we had done about 60, 65 per cent of all of the over 80s, we found that the clinics were not being fully booked. So we had capacities in the clinics. So we opened it up to the remaining health-care workers in the high priority groups and again, the uptake there seemed to be sluggish as well,” Kurji said.

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Kurji said they then had the capacity needed to open appointments to the next age group.

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Global News asked when residents aged 65 to 74 could receive their vaccinations. He suggested that could be possible in the next seven to 10 days.

On March 29, the region is set to launch its mobile clinic at Canada’s Wonderland. Teams underwent training on Thursday at the site in the theme park lot.

“We are going to have four mobile buses and they are equipped with fridges, and we have two immunizers in each bus. So when the cars come through the ticket booths (where the appropriate registration is done), then they go through eight lanes and get immunized. It’s most effective if you have four people in a car,” explained Kurji.

To the west, Peel Region has also been engaged in its own vaccine rollout ramp up.

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Medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh told Global News uptake has not been an issue for them. In fact, he said their hospital partners are booked up until March 23.

Loh said the region has already administered around 80,000 doses and are hoping to expand eligibility as well. However, there are some factors preventing them from doing so as early as York.

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“Next to Toronto, we have the second largest number of 80 plus people,” he said. “We’ve got 58,000…so it’s going to take us some time to get through them.”

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The region now has 10 out of 11 mass vaccination clinics up and running.

When asked when they would be expanding their rollout to include those 75 and older, Loh said it looked to be a matter of weeks, not months.

“Right now, together with our hospital partners, we have the capacity to be doing about 5,000 or 6,000 doses a day, so that number is only going to keep going with more supply.”

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