Two of the region’s top officials say more people in London, Ont., and Middlesex County will have access to COVID-19 vaccines in the coming days.
Glimpses of what’s to come where unveiled during the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s media briefing on Thursday, with expansions on the horizon for local vaccine eligibility and London’s pharmacy vaccination capacity.
Medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said the MLHU anticipates it will be able to open local vaccine appointments to people aged 60 and older by next Tuesday.
“The issues are primarily around vaccine availability and moving with partners in the region, making sure that we’re supporting each other to get through campaigns as appropriate,” Mackie told Thursday’s briefing.
“But I see that happening soon, we’re in a matter of days, not weeks.”
Mackie added that while other public health units may have opened their vaccine eligibility to this age range already, this discrepancy with the MLHU is tied to the provincial booking system used by those public health units.
MLHU is one of more than a dozen public health units in Ontario using a self-established booking tool.
“The provincial system is booking out appointments four weeks (in advance), we are here booking out appointments for three weeks,” Mackie said.
“We’re behind in terms of announcing and opening for appointment bookings, but we’re actually not behind in terms of who we’re vaccinating when, it’s essentially completely aligned with the province there.”
On the pharmacy front, London Mayor Ed Holder said he’s seeing success in his request to Premier Doug Ford to allow more pharmacies in the city to provide vaccines.
Last week, Ontario’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine program expanded to only two pharmacies in London: the west-end Costco Pharmacy at 693 Wonderland Rd. North and the Shoppers Drug Mart at 603 Fanshawe Park Rd. West.
The next closest options for Londoners are a Shoppers Drug Mart and a Yurek Pharmacy in St. Thomas.
To the east, there’s the Ingersoll Remedy’s Rx, the Ingersoll Pharmasave and a Shoppers Drug Mart in Woodstock.
The pharmacies are allowed to provide the vaccine to those 55 and up.
“Having spoken directly with the premier earlier this week… I’ve been assured a significant increase in our region will soon be announced,” Holder said.
“As well, it’s my understanding these pharmacies will be spread out across all quadrants of the city, providing easier access for those who qualify.”
The news came as London and Middlesex County reached a vaccination milestone, with MLHU and London Health Sciences Centre having doled out 100,000 shots in total by Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve come a long way since our first shot was delivered just two days before Christmas and our pace will only accelerate from here,” Holder added.
“While there’s still a lot of work ahead, I think it’s important to acknowledge the amazing work that’s already been done.”
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