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MLHU awaits details on Ontario’s plan to accelerate COVID-19 boosters for child care, school staff

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers says regardless of how many educators the Middlesex-London Health Unit can vaccinate before Jan. 17, it is critical that schools reopen as soon as possible. Sawyer Bogdan / Global News

Ontario has unveiled plans to accelerate access to COVID-19 booster shots for educators and child-care staff in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA), but there’s no word on what it means for those in London and Middlesex County.

In a written statement released on Thursday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said child-care and school staff in the GTHA will have “planned access to vaccines” at the International Centre in Mississauga starting Friday.

In a release attached to the statement, the province said it’s “working with all public health units (PHUs) to plan and provide access to third doses for education and child care staff.”

“Local PHUs will provide further information on how vaccines can be accessed in their communities as it becomes available,” the release added.

Read more: Ontario to accelerate COVID-19 boosters for child care, school staff

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During a media briefing on Thursday, hours after Lecce’s announcement, the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s (MLHU) acting medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers said he learned of the plans at the same time as the rest of the province.

Summers noted, however, that the MLHU had been preparing for the Ontario government to take up an approach similar to what was announced.

“We will see exactly how the province is anticipating this rollout may happen, but we have been doing our best to come up with contingency plans to make this happen,” Summers said.

“I would highlight that the next week and a half is largely booked with regards to (vaccine) appointments that are available, but we’ll be pivoting to see how we can provide some additional focused appointment availability for those educators and child-care staff.”

Schools across the province have temporarily shut their doors as part of the latest restrictions from the Ontario government, with students set to resume in-person learning on Jan. 17.

Read more: Ontario schools shift to virtual learning amid surge in COVID-19 cases

When answering a question during Thursday’s briefing about Ontario’s plans to accelerate booster shots for educators and child-care staff, Summers emphasized that regardless of how many educators are vaccinated in the coming days, it is critical that the province’s schools reopen as soon as possible.

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“School closures should not be the primary way in which we limit transmission in the community,” Summers said.

The health official added that keeping schools open in London and Middlesex County will depend on the actions taken outside of class by the community, including limiting close contacts.

“I really, really would strongly encourage our community to embrace the reopening of schools as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for the Thames Valley District School Board said the board had not received any additional information from the province, but the announcement earned praise from Director of Education Mark Fisher.

“We are strongly in support of education workers being given priority for vaccine boosters as this is a step in the right direction to making our schools safer and will benefit the broader community,” said Fisher in a statement to Global News.

The London District Catholic School Board did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication.

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