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COVID-19: MLHU says 2nd dose appointment re-booking for 80+ to start by June 7

Shirley Banks, 88, receives the first dose during the opening of the North London Optimist Community Centre COVID-19 vaccine clinic on March 17, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says unlike health units using the province’s booking system, it is not yet offering rescheduled second dose COVID-19 vaccine appointments for those 80 and older.

The MLHU says it is still prioritizing first doses for everyone 12 and older, but it expects to allow those 80 and older “the opportunity to re-book their second dose appointments starting Monday, June 7” or sooner, possibly as early as June 3.

Read more: 2nd COVID-19 shots in Ontario to be accelerated, shorten dosage interval

“The Province indicated those 80 years of age and older could begin re-scheduling their second dose appointments as early as this morning, given that some health units have more vaccine supply than needed for those seeking first doses in their areas,” the health unit said in a statement.

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“That is not the case in Middlesex and London, where most vaccine appointments continue to be first doses.”

At Monday’s COVID-19 media briefing, MLHU medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said the issue is vaccine supply.

Read more: COVID-19 vaccine tracker: How many Canadians are vaccinated?

He said that even some jurisdictions using the provincial booking system are not able to offer earlier second-dose appointments because they don’t have appointments available within the next four weeks.

“I have to admit, it is a head-scratcher. The problem seems to be that there’s more vaccine than needed in the GTA community for first doses. I just don’t know why the solution isn’t redistributing those vaccines to those that need it most.”

Mackie pointed to provincial data showing that within the last week, the rate of COVID-19 per 100,000 population in Middlesex and London was higher than in Toronto on May 26 and May 29.

“I think it’s fair to say that the hotspot strategy either needs to be updated or has outlived its usefulness. We need those vaccines here.”

COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the last week. The MLHU is in purple and Toronto Public Health is in orange. via covid-19.ontario.ca/data

London mayor Ed Holder said he understands that it’s “extremely frustrating” for local seniors.

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“We’re going to continue to make the case for greater vaccine supply and I remain hopeful that the deficit will be addressed sooner rather than later,” Holder said.

Mackie added that, in the meantime, the health unit is focused on administering first doses to as many people as possible.

“The first dose is the most important dose,” he said.

“The first dose conveys a large portion of the immunity. Again, it won’t last unless you get the second dose — second doses are still important.”

Read more: COVID-19: 18 new cases in London and Middlesex on Monday

The health unit will be hosting town halls on Tuesday and Wednesday for families of students in the local public, Catholic, and French language boards as well as for families of students at private schools, Mackie says.

“We are anticipating an increase in uptake associated with that and as we see how those bookings unfold, we’ll be able to move to rebooking the 80-plus (age group),” he explained.

The MLHU adds that, at this time, only those eligible for a shortened interval between doses can reschedule their initial second dose appointment and they can only do so over the phone between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. at 226-289-3560.

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An update with additional information will be provided at its Thursday media briefing this week, the health unit says.

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