Leadership with the Northwestern Health Unit is preparing to ramp up and increase their vaccination efforts across northwestern Ontario soon, as they look to receive additional vaccine shipments.

The NWHU says second doses to Elder Care Home and Long-Term Care Home residents will be given over the next few weeks, as well as first doses for staff and essential caregivers, other high-risk individuals and high-priority healthcare staff.

Medical Officer of Health with the Northwestern Health Unit, Dr. Kit Young Hoon, says appointments can’t be made yet, but she expects appointment-based vaccination clinics to begin in early April, for residents over the age of 80.

“We’re still waiting for [the shipment]. We still haven’t been notified of the allocation. Our expectation, based on what we’re hearing, is to ramp up at the end of March and the beginning of April. That’s when it’s really going to be at its maximum. Up to this point, it’s been very small amounts of the vaccine.”

She notes the Northwestern Health Unit was part of the roughly 1/3 of public health units in Ontario that received a later shipment of the vaccine, as Ontario prioritized areas with higher COVID-19 rates like Thunder Bay. Overall, we’re about a month behind other health units with their vaccination efforts.

Until residents are able to book their appointments, Young Hoon says now is the time to talk to your healthcare provider and be prepared to get the vaccine as soon as you’re able to.

“If you are immunocompromised, have an autoimmune disorder, are pregnant, or have an allergy to the vaccine or its components, speak to your health care provider now to see if you should get the vaccine,” Dr. Young Hoon says.

Anyone with the above conditions will have to attest that they have spoken to their healthcare provider, before receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.

The NWHU notes that even once immunized, you must continue to practice all COVID-19 prevention measures. The number of shots given will be closely monitored throughout the immunization process to assess when it’s safe for prevention measures to be loosened.

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms, or who has been in contact with a positive case, should self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.

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