Niagara begins vaccinating frontline child care and education workers over April break
Making a dent in vaccine hesitancy
Next meeting: tentatively scheduled for April 29
Review the terms of reference, including overview, roles and responsibilities.
The task force received its regular updates from Public Health, Niagara Health, and the pharmacy sector, all of whom continue to expand their vaccination efforts. In particular, more Niagara pharmacies are now delivering vaccines, with 19 more being added for a total of 40 across Niagara. Pharmacies are averaging 50 vaccinations per day at each location.
Niagara EMS has expanded its role in vaccinations redeploying staff from Niagara Health's Seymour-Hannah clinic to work with community service providers to vaccinate group home residents. EMS is also collaborating with primary care providers to identify more congregate settings for vaccinations, and will be assisting in developing a new mobile clinic strategy to focus on homebound patients.
Making a dent in vaccine hesitancy
Six cases of a rare form of blood clot were detected in more than 6.8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered in the United States, causing a temporary pause in rollout. This, combined with continued hesitancy among the population for AstraZeneca, has created a need for proactive communication encouraging and reinforcing the safe use of these vaccines.
Regional staff will bring a proposed communications campaign, focused on addressing vaccine hesitancy in Niagara, for the task force's review at its next meeting.
At its April 8 meeting, the task force received updates on changes to vaccine eligibility, which have changed rapidly in the last several days and weeks, including:
Within the provincial updates, we have seen the province move very quickly through the age cohorts. This happened much faster than previously indicated within provincial timelines. These rapid changes show the importance of Niagara remaining nimble and responsive in our vaccine rollout plans.
Public Health also provided some clarity regarding the Province’s recent announcement of prioritized vaccines for certain postal code-based hotspots throughout the province, including one in Niagara Falls.
The task force also highlighted the positive work of come of our community partners. These included the first dedicated clinic day for a priority population in Niagara - a clinic serving with the developmental sector at Niagara Health’s Seymour-Hannah clinic - as well as a vaccination pilot program for migrant farm workers in Niagara.
Since last week, the decision to vaccinate child care and education workers has gathered some significant media attention, and has been a catalyst for more discussion about the value in prioritizing education workers. Being the first public health area in the province to prioritize teachers has led Niagara to be seen as a leader and ahead of the curve.
The further prioritization of more essential workers for vaccination as part of Phase 2 of the provincial framework was identified as a further area of focus at the task force’s weekly meetings in April.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization announced that it has revised its recommendations for the AstraZeneca vaccine so that it can be used for Canadians 65 and older in the midst of some controversy in Europe surrounding its safety concerning blood clots. This came days after Ontario used the earlier guidelines to target distribution of the shot to people aged 60-64 years old, reaffirming the importance of being nimble in our immunization effort.
Variables outside of our control have the ability to dramatically change the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations in Niagara with little notice.
Ontario also continues to compete with the variants of concern. The Ontario Science Table and the Ontario Hospital Association have declared a 'third wave', fuelled by the variants. Right now, the new variants seem to be slightly ahead of our immunizations.
While this should not sway our intense focus on ensuring our local vaccination strategy is efficient and equitable, it does remind us that we should seize any and all opportunities to re-enforce those key public health messages across our sectors.
The task force reviewed and endorsed Niagara Region Public Health’s proposed principles for decision-making related to the sub-prioritization of priority populations in Niagara. These principles are:
The task force also recommended several changes to Public Health's list of highest priority populations for vaccination in Niagara. Members agreed to include migrant agricultural workers, police and pharmacies in the highest priority category.
Niagara Health provided an update on the expansion of vaccinations for more health care workers at its Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre clinic. Lessons learned around the complexity of staffing and logistics will inform Public Health's future community-based immunization clinics.
At its second meeting, the task force received updates on vaccination activities completed by Niagara Health and Niagara Region Public Health to date.
The group also reviewed and provided input into Public Health's operational plan for mass immunization, and discussed ways to ensure Niagara's vulnerable populations are properly prioritized in the vaccination plan.
At its first meeting, chaired by Dr. Dec, members of the task force:
The Community Coordination Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccination has formed as part of the local pandemic response and recovery efforts to ensure the secure, efficient and equitable delivery of the local COVID-19 immunization strategy.
The task force will perform the following key advisory roles: