Hamilton public health says just over ten per cent of all eligible Hamiltonians have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The latest figures show that 69,251 vaccine doses have been administered to date, with 10.3 per cent of the city’s eligible population having received at least one dose.
Those numbers are expected to increase as vaccination ramps up at the new large-scale clinic at FirstOntario Centre, which began administering doses to seniors aged 75 and older on Monday.
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s chief medical officer of health, said the downtown arena is fully booked up for the week, but they’re working with the province to add more appointments in the coming days.
The latest data from public health, presented to the city’s board of health on Monday, provides more specific numbers about COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The mobile pop-up clinics will also continue to move throughout different areas of Hamilton and will be at four rec centres in the lower city toward the end of this week: Stoney Creek Recreation Centre from March 25 to 28, Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre from March 25 to 28, Norman Pinky Lewis Recreation Centre on March 27 and 28, and Ryerson Recreation Centre on March 25 and 26.
A pop-up clinic will also be available specifically for Indigenous adults at the Perkins Centre at 1429 Main St. E. on March 26 and 29 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on March 27 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Currently, appointments at the pop-up clinics can only be made through the city’s COVID-19 hotline – 905-974-9848, option 7.
Dr. Richardson said they’ve had technical issues with offering booking at those locations through the provincial online portal.
“It wasn’t working well from a technical perspective, and so we’re in the process of changing over to a different way of booking those and using the hotline for now,” said Dr. Richardson during the city’s media briefing on Monday. “Hopefully we’ll have an online solution for those developed within the next week.”
During Monday’s board of health meeting, some councillors for rural areas of Hamilton expressed frustration about elderly residents being unable or unwilling to travel to the downtown clinic or the clinic at St. Joseph’s West 5th campus.
Judi Partridge, councillor for Ward 15, said she’s been contacted by seniors who want to know why the pop-up clinic at Harry Howell Arena was only available temporarily.
“This is for the 80, 85-year-olds and 90-year-olds. They want their vaccine. They’re scared and they don’t know where to go. They want to go to Harry Howell. They want to stay within their ward.”
Michelle Baird, director of operations for public health, said one of the mobile clinics was operating briefly at Harry Howell but has moved on to other areas of the city, although she pointed out that it will be returning to Harry Howell late next week.
“The mobile clinics were never intended to stay in one place,” said Baird. “They are intended to be mobile pop up. They go to an area for a period of time, sometimes just two days, sometimes three or four days or a week. And then they move along and yes, they will come back to the same location.”
Baird added that they are working on providing a schedule of where those clinics will be in the future and hope to have that posted on the city’s website.
Councillor Tom Jackson said he’s had pharmacies in Ward 6 contacting him and asking him when Hamilton pharmacies will be added to the province’s AstraZeneca pilot program so they can distribute shots to seniors aged 60 and older.
Right now, the AstraZeneca pilot is only operating in Hamilton through primary care physicians, who are contacting eligible residents directly.
Dr. Richardson said public health is engaged in a “dialogue” with the province to add Hamilton pharmacies to the pilot.
“They’re looking over the next couple of weeks – as the AstraZeneca supply continues to increase – they’re looking to increase the number of pharmacies,” said Dr. Richardson.
“Currently there are about 350 pharmacies in those identified areas and they’re looking to bring it up to 700. And it may well be that they look towards areas that have a higher level of disease activity, in terms of where those further pharmacies are.”
For those who have an appointment at FirstOntario Centre, city officials are asking residents to show up closer to their timeslot in order to avoid people congregating in front of the doors on Bay Street.
“We did see some lineups first thing this morning, and a number of people were there well in advance of their appointment time,” said Paul Johnson, director of Hamilton’s emergency operations centre.
“We understand that people … want to get their vaccine. You don’t have to worry. We’re very conscious about booking bookings so that there is vaccine. You will get the vaccine.”
Johnson said those lineups were the only “hiccup” on the first day of operations at FirstOntario Centre, aside from coordinating parking and drop-offs outside of the downtown arena.