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COVID-19: MLHU, libraries partner to reach those yet to book vaccine appointments

The Masonvile branch of the London Public Library. Google Maps

The Middlesex-London Health Unit is teaming up with the Middlesex County Library and London Public Library to try to reach adults eligible for COVID-19 vaccination but who have not yet received their shot.

Effective immediately, staff at the local library branches will call library cardholders aged 70 and older “to ensure they have the information they need to book a COVID-19 vaccination appointment and that they know where to find more information if they have questions.”

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The health unit estimates more than 80 per cent of people 75 and older and more than 65 per cent of those aged 70 to 74 have had their first dose of vaccine.

“There has been strong demand for the COVID-19 vaccines since we launched our public vaccination campaign, but we know that there were challenges for some folks when it came to booking appointments,” says MLHU medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie.

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Mackie says library staff will be calling cardholders, making sure they are aware that they’re eligible for vaccine, and offering help if needed.

“(Staff) won’t be connected into our phone booking system. They will be using the online system and provide any support that the individuals might need,” Mackie said Monday afternoon.

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In London, the health unit says the partnership will reach more than 9,200 residents aged 70 and older.

Once those calls are made, the libraries will then reach out to those aged 60 to 69, or roughly 13,000 cardholders within the London Public Library system.

“This is such a tangible way that we can use our skills and relationships with our community to assist those who may experience barriers to booking an appointment or need help finding more information. We’d like our community to know that we will navigate this together,” says LPL CEO Michael Ciccone.

The Middlesex County Library will reach out to more than 2,000 cardholders aged 65 and older.

“As trusted community connectors, it really is a natural fit for Middlesex County Library staff to participate in this initiative,” says Middlesex County director of library services Lindsay Brock.

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“A number of barriers to access exist for our residents, including challenges related to internet service, so we want to do everything we can to help bridge these gaps.”

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While Mackie says the health unit has not received direct complaints about people struggling with transportation to mass vaccination clinics, Middlesex County warden Cathy Burghardt-Jesson has raised the issue and the health unit has taken several measures to make sure county residents are able to access vaccine.

“First of all, we’ve successfully advocated in partnership with the warden and with the mayor for expanded vaccine access in pharmacies,” Mackie says.

“The other strategy, of course, we have the Mount Brydges mass vaccination clinic. We’ve committed to keeping that clinic open and maximizing use even when supplies may be short.”

The health unit has an existing primary care site in Strathroy that is able to offer COVID-19 vaccination and Mackie is hoping to expand primacy care facility access throughout the county.

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“The other aspect that we are involved in is through the mobile clinics. That’s how we vaccinated residents in long-term care retirement homes. That mobile campaign is continuing and we have sites across all of the municipalities in the county where we’ll be visiting,” he said.

“These are congregate care settings or congregate living settings where it might not be a retirement or a long-term care facility, but it might be a respite home for people with disabilities, or it might be even an apartment building that is tailored to seniors.”

Additionally, starting this week, Mackie says the MLHU is working with home care staff to provide vaccines to their patients in their homes.

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