Nearly half of all adults within the Middlesex-London Health Unit‘s jurisdiction have already had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and access to vaccines is set to expand significantly in the next two weeks.
London Mayor Ed Holder said Thursday that there’s been “incredible uptake of vaccines to date. We want to see that momentum not only continue, we want to see it build even further as our supply of vaccine continues to grow.”
As of Thursday, people 40 (born in 1981) and older are now eligible to book an appointment at one of the region’s mass vaccination clinics, with eligibility set to expand to those 30 (born in 1991) and older on May 20 and to all adults on May 27.
“That is still pending provincial confirmation but we have no reason to believe that we’ll have to change those dates,” medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said Thursday.
“As of two weeks from now, every adult in Middlesex and London will be eligible to book their vaccine appointments.”
Mackie says 5,000 appointments were booked between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday, when access expanded to those 40 and older.
On Tuesday, when access opened to a second group of essential workers as well as to those with specific health conditions age 16 and older, Mackie says 17,000 appointments were booked in a single day.
“That was a banner day, biggest booking day we’ve had and basically no hiccups,” he said. “We still have appointments available in the system. The other availability right now is with the Nichols Arena.”
The Earl Nichols Recreation Centre at 799 Homeview Rd. in London will be home to the MLHU’s fourth mass vaccination clinic.
While it doesn’t officially open until May 25, Mackie said “in order to make sure when it opens it’s booked, we have those appointments available in the system.”
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A fifth mass vaccination clinic is in the works, though Mackie provided no other details. The MLHU is also looking at expanding or introducing additional ways to get vaccine to those who need it.
“Pop-up clinics, more mobile team deployment, more targeting to specific neighbourhoods. We’re also planning more rollout of vaccine through primary care family doctors offices,” Mackie explained.
“And, of course, there will be a lot more going through pharmacies as well. It looks like over the next few weeks the province is really going to ramp up delivery of Moderna through pharmacies.”
Ontarians aged 12 to 17 years old will be eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine beginning May 31, the province announced Thursday, and Mackie says the health unit intends to partner with school boards but is not expecting to conduct school-by-school vaccinations at this time.
“Hepatitis B, HPV (vaccines) go school-by-school and it takes us about three months to get our vaccine teams into every school, and that’s just high schools and middle schools,” Mackie explained.
“There may be situations where we do set up a clinic in a school, but at this stage in the campaign, the mass clinics are still by far the most efficient and effective way to get the vaccine into arms.”
Mackie says he’s hoping to complete first doses for those age 12 to 17 by the end of June if possible, based on supply.
When it comes to those under 12, there’s no information yet “about whether a vaccine will be available for those under 12 before September.”
A list of who is currently eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in the Middlesex-London Health Unit and Southwestern Public Health regions can be found online.
Information on second doses, including who is eligible for a shortened-interval second-dose appointment, is also available on the MLHU’s website.
First-dose appointments can be booked online or by calling 226-289-3560 between 8 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. daily.
— with a file from Global News’ Jessica Patton.
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