The Middlesex-London Health Unit has unveiled plans to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine access for local educators and child care staff after the province issued a directive last week that aims to make Ontario schools safer.
On Thursday, the Ministry of Education said it’s “working with all public health units to plan and provide access to third doses for education and child care staff.”
While details on how this would roll out in London and Middlesex County were not immediately available at the time of the announcement, the MLHU shared its strategy for boosting vaccine coverage for this cohort on Monday.
During a virtual media briefing, acting medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers said 3,500 vaccine appointments have been set aside for educators and child care staff, on top of the thousands of appointments already available for the general public.
“What we are doing in the short term is taking any unused appointments and making them available, first-come first serve, to child care, elementary and secondary staff,” Summers said.
Some of the unused appointments include those that were originally allocated for children between five and 11 years old.
These appointments often go unused because the demand for them is “not as brisk” when compared to appointments for booster shots, according to Summers.
“Every day, we open up the child appointments three days from now to the general public. Moving forward, we’re going to open up those appointments to child care, elementary and secondary employees,” Summers said.
Summers added that the “stabilization of our staffing” has opened up new appointments at local mass vaccinations, which will be reserved for educators and child care staff.
Elsewhere, London Health Sciences Centre will be allowing the cohort to receive a vaccine at occupational health clinics run by the hospital network. A number of primary care providers in the region will also be running pop-up walk-in clinics for those who qualify.
Summers says it’s hard to predict how long it could take to vaccinate local educators and child care staff, adding that a portion of the cohort has already been triple-vaccinated, while another portion won’t receive a vaccine since it’s not mandatory.
Rather, he says the amount of time it takes will depend on the amount of demand they receive.
School boards and child care centres will be spreading more information on how those who qualify can book a shot, but an option is already available for educators and child care staff on the MLHU’s online booking portal.
Summers says those who book a shot as an educator or child care staff will need to bring proof of employment to their vaccine appointment.