Second doses available locally despite A.J. LaRue closure

By Sue Tiffin

As reported in last week’s Echo, the mass vaccination clinic in Haliburton will close at the end of this month. The health unit has told the Echo that those who received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose at the A.J. LaRue community centre will still be able to get their second dose in the county.

“The second doses could be provided at the other mass immunization clinic site at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden, through primary care providers, or at local pharmacies,” said a representative from the health unit. “People who have registered through the provincial booking system will have a second dose appointment automatically generated. If they booked their doses at the Haliburton clinic site, the location will be changed and they will be notified by mail or email. Information will also be posted on the Health Unit website. Rest assured, anyone who needs a second dose will be able to get one.”

It is not yet known if the date and time of second vaccine appointments already booked will remain the same.

Second doses, more vaccine, more appointments, more eligibility coming soon
The health unit has received many questions related to when and how people can receive their second dose, especially from those who received a vaccine outside of the provincial health booking system.

“I know it’s anxiety-provoking knowing you’ll be due for your second dose at the 16-week mark and not knowing for sure where you’re going to get it, and when,” she said.

The provincial booking system is being updated so that people can use the system to book their second appointment if they don’t have one already scheduled, said Bocking.

“That feature is not yet available and that has been the challenge so far,” she said. “We have been told by the province … the feature will become available at end of the month or early June. That will be the route for individuals to book their second appointment.”

All individuals aged 18 and older throughout the province are eligible to book their first dose of vaccine now, and the health unit is working with school boards in the region to determine the best way to roll-out the youth immunization strategy for those 12 to 17 and their families, set to start in June.

“I know there is lots of demand for COVID-19 appointments across our region and some frustration associated with not being able to get an appointment right now for a COVID-19 vaccination,” she said. “Our supply has increased a little bit, and it is slowly increasing. At the same time, eligibility expanded quite significantly. So, we still have a mismatch in terms of the number of people really wanting and asking for vaccination, and the amount of vaccine supply that’s available. It’s improving and this mismatch is slowly going to normalize but it’s going to be a couple of weeks yet before we see greater availability of appointments. As soon as we book a clinic with new appointments, often those appointments are gone within 24 hours.”

Vaccines advised for children, once approved in trials
With the Pfizer vaccine being approved after trials for the 12 – 17 age group, and further trials underway for younger kids, Bocking said it would be recommended for kids to be vaccinated too.

“As a parent I don’t have children in that age group but I would be looking to have my children receive the vaccine,” said Bocking.

“We have seen certainly that youth in some ways can become drivers of transmission with the gatherings they have and throughout households,” said Bocking. “I know we experienced two relatively large high school-related outbreaks [in the health unit region]. While there’s not a lot of transmission in schools we still have a lot of gatherings outside of schools. So as we see the larger segments of our population well, having good vaccine coverage, I think it will be really important to see it across the whole population.”

Navigating conflict between vaccinated and unvaccinated family members
When asked about how people who are vaccinated might deal with stress in gathering with those who aren’t vaccinated, Bocking said she understood the challenges people were facing.

“It’s challenging because in the end, it’s just about keeping our families safe, right?,” said Bocking. “So I think when family members are concerned, either about a family member or a close friend that doesn’t want to receive the vaccine, we automatically go to, but we want to make sure that you’re well, we want to make sure our family’s well. I can understand that emotional challenge around that because we’re all in this together.”

Bocking said the health unit was willing to support people who need accurate information about vaccinations.

“I think we know that for individuals that have some concerns or questions about vaccines, sometimes it might be just a concern about them having accurate information, so we can certainly support readers and family members to make sure they have accurate information about vaccines that they can share with their family members or other friends if they have questions about vaccine.”

Eventually, perhaps in a couple of months, there might be public measures that change when more people are vaccinated, said Bocking.

“And we might reach a point in time where there’s different measures in place if someone’s vaccinated or not vaccinated in terms of, whether it’s mask wearing or that sort of thing,” she said. “I know they’re really challenging conversations and I think I would just encourage people to have those conversations because the more we talk about it the more we can address any concerns that might be there, and continue to work together to keep everybody healthy and well.”