The COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Chatham-Kent is picking up speed.
The region received its first shipment of Pfizer-made vaccine Monday. Doses will start going into arms Tuesday morning when the vaccination clinic opens at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre in Chatham.
Staff and essential caregivers from long-term care homes will be vaccinated first at the 2,320-square-metre facility.
Planning for the clinic began in early December. Work setting up the Bradley Centre started in early January.
“It’s been an awful lot of work but so very rewarding to come to this point,” site leader Willi Kirenko said, “and we’re very, very excited.”
There are more than 300 appointments Tuesday and more than 400 Wednesday, she said.
“As long as we have vaccine product, we’ll be open seven days a week,” Kirenko said. “Initially, the plan is to have it (open for) eight-hour days, but we intend to grow that or move that up to 10-, 11-, 12-hour days as soon as we can, as soon as there’s enough vaccine product.”
Long-term care home residents will continue to be vaccinated at their homes. Most in Chatham-Kent have already received a first dose of the Moderna-made vaccine.
More Moderna vaccine is expected to arrive this week for the second doses in residents.
Another shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is expected to arrive the week of March 1.
The clinic has 10 vaccination bays. Approximately 60 shots can be given per hour and 420 per day.
The clinic will be staffed with employees from the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Chatham-Kent public health unit, Chatham-Kent emergency medical services and Judy Lamarsh federal building as well as health alliance volunteers and retirees.
“It’s really a community approach to how we’re going to be running this,” project co-ordinator Bob Crawford said.
Visitors are greeted by large, brightly coloured signs in English, French and Ojibway with quotes about why people are being vaccinated.
“I am getting vaccinated because … I want to protect the health and wellbeing of my community,” reads one at the entrance. “I got vaccinated because … I care for my aging parents,” reads another at the exit.
Visitors will move through socially distanced lines to register and then be vaccinated.
After getting their shot, they’ll wait in an observation area. There’s an emergency area if they have side effects, such as nausea or an allergic reaction.
“Initially we’ll have fewer individuals come through as we try things on for size … but we’ll improve efficiency as we go and we’ll become very, very efficient in time,” Kirenko said.
The Bradley Centre was chosen because it allows vaccinations to be done safely and efficiently, said Chatham-Kent EMS general manager Donald MacLellan.
“It’s the right place designed properly for all the populations that will be served in this facility,” he said.
Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout will continue into March and include highest-priority health-care workers. Phase 1B in March and April will include high-priority health-care workers, people 80 years and older, Indigenous adults, and more staff, residents and caregivers from retirement homes.
Phase 2 is scheduled to run from April to June with people from 60 to 79 years old, clinically extremely vulnerable adults and other risk groups. Phase 3 for the rest of the general population is slated for June to August.
People will not be allowed in the clinic without an appointment.
Do not call the public health unit for an appointment. The province’s online registration and call centre for appointments is expected to be ready in March.
Pop-up clinics in rural communities, mobile teams, and vaccinations in pharmacies and doctors’ offices are part of the long-term plan.
“Folks should feel reassured that maybe their time isn’t coming up at the 1A time, but their turn will be coming just as soon as possible,” Kirenko said.
Public health would not reveal how many doses were received in the latest shipment.
“We can now ramp up because we’re getting increasing supplies and on a more regular, frequent basis,” public health spokesperson Jeff Moco said. “It’s easier to do the work when you know it’s going to continue to come.”