COVID-19 - Niagara is under a provincewide stay-at-home order. Learn about the COVID-19 vaccination and service disruptions.

Community Coordination Task Force for COVID-19 Vaccination

Vaccine Prioritization

Niagara begins vaccinating frontline child care and education workers over April break

Task force meeting - April 22

Provincial updates

  • April 19: Ontario expands eligibility for AstraZeneca to all adults age 40+ to offer the protection of the vaccine to more Ontarians earlier than anticipated
  • April 20: Additional pharmacies in hot spot communities of Toronto, Peel and York regions will begin offering the AstraZeneca vaccine 24/7 to individuals aged 40 and over. When the province begins to receive more vaccine supply from the federal government, it will expand 24/7 COVID-19 vaccinations to additional hot spot areas. Pharmacies may now also offer walk-in services.

Sector updates

  • Public Health continues to run dedicated vaccination clinics for Niagara's Indigenous population
  • To date, Niagara Health has delivered over 77,000 vaccinations, and is planning for their 100,000 dose
  • The greatest challenge to our vaccine rollout remains a stable and reliable supply of vaccines. Public Health and Niagara Health are preparing for the possibility of having to cancel or scale back clinics in early May, if additional vaccine supply is not committed to Niagara.

Making a dent in vaccine hesitancy

  • Regional staff have been collaborating with Public Health and Niagara Health to design a communications campaign to address vaccine hesitancy in Niagara, addressing both an immediate request from Niagara Health to relieve strain on our hospital system, and a longer-term need as vaccine eligibility expands in the coming months
  • Regional communications staff will be reaching out in the coming days to task force members to create short videos that address common vaccine hesitancy questions specific to the populations the task force members represent
  • Also planned is a media release and further social media collaboration with Public Health and Niagara Health

Next meeting: tentatively scheduled for April 29

Previous meetings

  • April 15

    Sector updates

    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.

  • April 8

    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:

    • March 22 - Expanded booking to 75 years and older
    • March 26 - Announced Toronto would move to 70 years and older the following day
    • March 28 - Announced 11 additional Public Health Unit areas to move to 70 years and older the following day
    • March 30 - National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that AstraZeneca should not be used in adults under 55 years of age pending further investigation
    • April 6 - Official announcement of being in Phase 2
    • April 7 - 60 years and older opened on provincial booking system

    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.

  • March 18

    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.

  • Feb. 25

    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:

    • Vaccinate those with the greatest risk of severe illness or death first to save lives
    • Vaccinate those with frequent, extended and close contact with those at the greatest risk of severe illness or death to stop transmission to those most at risk of death
    • Vaccinate those where local evidence shows a greater risk of infection to stop transmission into the community, including to those at risk of death

    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.

  • Feb. 11

    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.

  • Jan. 28

    At its first meeting, chaired by Dr. Dec, members of the task force:

    • Introduced themselves and their organizations to the group
    • Received an update on vaccination planning and rollout so far from Niagara Region's Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji
    • Adopted a terms of reference that will guide their work going forward
    • Resolved to meet every two weeks with the next meeting scheduled for Feb. 11

Role 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:

  • Champion and provide strategic guidance into the local immunization strategy, drawing on organizational and sector expertise
  • Offer support to the identification and prioritization of local populations within the phased provincial Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan
  • Provide advice into the communications and engagement plan for health care providers, priority populations and the general public
  • Receive status updates on vaccination progress, achievements and key milestones, and share information with other sector-specific organizations and community partners
  • Liaise and report regularly to Regional Council as the Board of Health

Task force members

  • Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley
  • Dr. David Dec
  • Dr. Karl Stobbe, Medical Director, REACH Niagara
  • Adrienne Jugley, Commissioner, Community Services, Niagara Region
  • Nancy Garner, Executive Director, Quest Community Health Centre
  • Brian Davies, Chief Executive Officer, Bethesda
  • Lucie Huot, Executive Director, CERF Niagara
  • Martina Rosza, Vice President, Home and Community Care, Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network
  • Lynn Guerriero, President and Interim CEO, Niagara Health
  • Kathleen LaForme, Diabetes Wellness Coordinator, Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle
  • Jennifer Dockstader, Executive Director, Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre
  • Jim Boutilier, Fire Chief, City of Niagara Falls
  • Martha Mason, Executive Director, Fort Erie Multicultural Centre
  • Sean Simpson, President, Pharmacists Association of Niagara
  • Chief Bryan MacCulloch, Niagara Regional Police Service
  • Frank Ruberto, Executive Director, Niagara Medical Group Family Health Team
  • Dr. Mustafa Hirji, Acting Medical Officer of Health, Niagara Region
  • Regional Councillor Barbara Greenwood, Co-Chair, Public Health and Social Services Committee
  • Chief Kevin Smith, Niagara Emergency Medical Services
  • Tom Kuchyt, CAO, Town of Fort Erie
  • Mike Kirkopoulos, CAO, Town of Lincoln
  • Shelley Chemnitz, CAO, St. Catharines
  • Ron Tripp, Acting CAO, Niagara Region
  • Natalie Early, Director, Corporate Strategy and Innovation
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