Here’s how this eastern Ontario health unit reached a provincial vaccination peak of 92 percent

When COVID-19 vaccination clinics first opened in and around Brockville, volunteers called on their neighbors to urge them to inject the leftover doses at the end of the day so that none would go to waste. At one site, someone walking a nearby dog ​​was called in.

Nurses at the clinics filled syringes with the vaccine and handed them to paramedics who then dispersed to help the homebound, and the clinics were set up in social housing complexes. In the summer, the unit followed the crowd and held a clinic at Brockville Ontario Speedway during a racing event.

A local Giant Tiger opened his warehouse so that employees and community members could be vaccinated, and pharmacies in small towns, with populations of about 3,000, vaccinated many rural residents. The hockey rinks served as clinics before the teams returned to the ice this season.

It took a community to put this eastern Ontario public health unit at the top of the double-dose vaccination chart, surpassing its own goal of 90 percent on Sept. 27, just a few weeks after the vaccination began. lessons.

Today, the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Districts Health Unit continues to lead in Ontario, with 92% of eligible residents fully vaccinated and 97% receiving a dose. The reward? Only 23 active cases, according to the latest figures from the unit, in a population of 170,000 people.

The achievement has garnered praise from Health Minister Christine Elliott as well as Ontario Medical Director of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. Moore has repeatedly said the entire province needs to get to 90 percent to keep COVID-19 at bay.

People wait after receiving their COVID-19 vaccine at the ConnectWell Community Health Center in Lanark, Ontario, on Friday, October 8, 2021.

But the next closest unit is in Thunder Bay, where 86 percent of residents receive a double dose. Toronto stands at about 81 percent. The lowest rate, 78 percent, is found in a handful of areas, including Chatham-Kent and Hamilton.

“We have always worked well together in partnership with our community, and I think that was the case for us to come together from the beginning and see how we are going to provide vaccines to our community so that they can protect themselves and each other,” said Dr. Paula Stewart, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark Medical Health Officer.

The unit covers a large geographic area, some 6,329 square kilometers, and initially had fixed sites in Brockville, Smiths Falls, Almonte and Kemptville. Three were run by hospitals, all with the help of doctors and community teams that sometimes served 600-900 people a day.

But Stewart said public health realized it had to do more and began offering mobile clinics, with 11 municipalities joining in and hosting four or five each, bringing in volunteers to screen patients before public health. administer the injections.

“It was an incredible effort,” Stewart said. “We had 40 pharmacies spread over Leeds, Grenville and Lanark, so the smaller communities, with between 3,000 and 5,000 people, had a pharmacy in their community that they could go to. Our media was phenomenal in supporting us … there was a rumor about it. “

If “someone said we think this is a good place to go” to offer vaccines, he added, “as long as it’s safe for our staff, we would.”

With many rural areas – Brockville, with a population of about 21,000, is the largest municipality in the area – “the vaccination clinics in the small towns were great,” Stewart added.

“At the end, people would call their neighbors and say, ‘We have an additional vaccine. You have to come and get the vaccine. ‘ … The community fully embraced this as ‘This is an important thing to do.’

The collective sense, he added, “was that this was the right thing to do both personally, for my friends and family, and for others: to be part of something that is important, and the community continues to embrace it.”

As of Oct. 4, the unit registered 96.6 percent residents with one dose and 91.3 percent with two, and continues to see the numbers rise. The results? Low COVID case count and few outbreaks outside of family members and close contacts.

“He’s knocking on wood,” Steward added, “but he’s making a difference.”

The challenge now is to attract the 18-29 age group, with mobile teams continuing to work with municipalities and businesses.

“We have adjusted (strategies) based on what we hear from the community,” he added. “In September, we adapt to go out where the people are.”

Some units across the province continue to struggle with vaccine vacillation, something Stewart said Leeds, Grenville and Lanark have also seen.

“There are definitely some people who are concerned, we found out through Facebook and we found out” by email, but public health responds to all inquiries. Clinic nurses will also address concerns if people want to come in with questions.

Stewart said the unit is now experiencing great reluctance among pregnant women, so she has spoken publicly about how important it is for them to be protected and has reached out to obstetricians and family doctors to “give them key points that they can use. … Basically, we’ve been trying to get to know people where they are, provide information and support. “

Housing and Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark, representing Leeds – Grenville – Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, said he is proud of the success of the local health unit.

“It continues to have the highest first and second dose vaccination rate in Ontario. Through a strong partnership between the province and our public health officials, Leeds, Grenville and Lanark are leading the way, demonstrating the willingness of people to get vaccinated and the ability of our healthcare system to deliver those vaccines efficiently. “he said in a statement to the Star.

“Ontario’s last mile strategy is working.”

Larger urban areas are currently around 80 percent complete vaccinations, including the Durham region with 84 percent, York region with 82 percent, Peel with 81 percent, and Toronto with 81 , 6.

Halton, who has fully vaccinated 86 percent of its eligible population ages 12 and older, said in a statement that it worked “quickly and in collaboration with our local hospitals to ensure a successful launch of multi-site vaccination this spring. pass. We work hard to implement changes with a new leadership coming from the province and changes in the supply of vaccines in the first half of the year ”.

He recognized the rapid and smooth implementation of an online reservation system as “one of our greatest successes… This reservation system was for all of our community clinics, including the two hospital clinics. Residents found this to be accessible and easy to use ”and the unit also ensured that older people were able to access the clinics, including offering free transportation.

Lambton’s health unit, with one of the lowest vaccination rates, said it is also facing vaccine vacillation, but “our hospitalization rate continues to fall at or below the provincial rate and these are the numbers that concern us most in the fourth wave. Overall, these are very good numbers from a population perspective, but we can do better and we continue to plan to improve our coverage. “

A person receives their COVID-19 vaccine at the ConnectWell Community Health Center in Lanark, Ontario, on Friday, October 8, 2021.

It said its “large rural population and rural Canadians are more likely to report concerns about vaccines. For further investigation, Lambton Public Health has partnered with Ipsos to conduct a local survey which will provide insight into populations that doubt vaccines. “

Responding to questions about its vaccination rates, Toronto Public Health said it has a “unique context … (it is) the largest local public health unit in Canada, with more than three million people in 140 neighborhoods. Given the higher population relative to the rest of the province and other local jurisdictions, there are a greater number of people requiring vaccination, which may also amplify further challenges such as misinformation, doubts about vaccines, and barriers to vaccination. vaccination ”.

Public Health “has been listening to community partners who are connecting with residents about why people are hesitant or unable to get vaccinated. For example, we have heard that access to vaccines has been a barrier. Some residents have a hard time finding time during the day to get vaccinated, ”he said.

“… Others, such as older people, may have trouble getting to vaccinations or face technical barriers to booking an appointment. Some express concern about language barriers to navigating the vaccination process. “

Some 4.5 million doses have been administered in the city, he added.


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