Sims: Our reward for being good is being lower on the provincial vaccine list

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Well, so much for doing what we were told.

I know I’m supposed to be overjoyed with the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s news Monday that there’s enough vaccine to speed up the shots in the Phase 1 priority group.

An expanded list of front-line health-care workers can start getting shots Tuesday. Indigenous people age 55 and older and, thank goodness, the older-than-80 crowd can start booking Tuesday for appointments starting Saturday.

We’ve been pushing to get our older neighbours who don’t live in long-term care and retirement homes to the front of the vaccination line, given older people are the most vulnerable to serious illness and death from COVID-19.

What’s confounding to me is that if you’re older than 80 and living in Blenheim or Ridgetown or Chatham, you might have your first vaccination by now after the Chatham-Kent health unit began its older-than-80 group last Saturday.

The same is true if you live in Windsor, which has had a smouldering virus fire for months. Older folks in Waterloo Region and Guelph are getting their shots, too.

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And those scofflaw regions of Peel and York – yes, heavily populated, but with frustratingly high case counts – are jabbing needles into older-than-80 arms.

But in Middlesex-London, you have to wait. That just doesn’t square with me, given the herculean efforts here to maintain low case counts, wear masks and follow the rules to help protect the most vulnerable among us.

This health unit region of about half a million people went above and beyond, particularly our senior community. I’ve heard from lots of you who opted to stay in your homes and sacrifice seeing your kids and grandkids.

You have an even longer wait if you live in Elgin or Oxford counties, where the Southwestern Public Health is putting finishing touches on its clinics for March 15 and won’t have information about how to book an appointment until March 8.

That health unit told seniors if they can’t wait, they can book an appointment at the Western Fair Agriplex — I guess with the surge of anxious Middlesex-London seniors  — with times limited to March 6 to 8, “as vaccine supply remains low,” the health unit’s news release said.

We’ve heard for weeks that the federal government procurements are delayed, that the Belgian Pfizer factory is re-tooling, that we should be patient. Last week’s approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine was great news. Getting the Johnson and Johnson one-shot vaccine approved would be a game changer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated his promise to have us all vaccinated by September on the U.S. news show, Meet the Press, during the weekend. The pressure is on.

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More than 33,000 doses have been administered in Middlesex-London since Dec. 23. Medical officer of health Chris Mackie said we have ramped up to about 1,000 to 2,000 doses a day and we have the capacity, if we have supply, to jab up to 10,000 arms a day.

“The reality is, we don’t expect that any time before late spring, early summer at the earliest,” he said.

What’s gumming up the works for the local senior population is what makes us proudest. Our remarkable health-care system employs a lot of people, all of whom are higher on the priority list. The London Health Sciences Centre alone has vaccinated 1,400 staff.

Areas that had surges of disease, like Windsor or in and around Toronto “received much larger shipments of vaccines earlier in the campaign,” Mackie said, to make sure long-term care and retirement homes were protected. Those areas are further along in their priority list.

And, Mackie reasoned, Monday’s announcement means we’re still nine days ahead of the original schedule.

So drip, drip, drip goes the rollout. Meanwhile the COVID states of America have surpassed 50-million doses into American arms since President Joe Biden took office Jan. 20.

What does that look like?  Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced Monday his state’s priority groups have expanded to include people 60 and older (not expected here until at least June), plus people living with Type One diabetes, pregnant women, bone marrow transplant recipients, ALS patients, law enforcement officers, child-care workers and funeral service providers.

Here on the other side of Lake Erie, we can’t even protect the folks who go to the Cherryhill Village Mall.

At least, not until Saturday.

jsims@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JaneatLFPress

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