With lots of health units throughout Ontario offering COVID-19 vaccination clinics, it is notable that the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit is approaching the situation somewhat differently. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the area served by the local LGLD Health Unit had the highest vaccine uptake of any area in the Province, suggesting that Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark locals are in favour of vaccinating. Why then, are vaccines not as easily available here as in some other locales?
The local Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Linna Li, provided the following statement:
“Broad vaccine administration (e.g., childhood vaccines, flu vaccines, etc.) is not typically part of the Health Unit’s mandate. However, we were the primary administrators for COVID-19 vaccine due to emergency response. Now that we are out of the emergency phase of the pandemic and we understand from the Province that pharmacies (and to some degree, primary care providers) are intended to be the main vaccine providers for this booster dose, we are directing people to those options.
“We’ve confirmed that there is good vaccine access through pharmacies across our region. It would be important to know if people are not able to access the vaccine through a pharmacy, or if there are other barriers that we need to consider as part of our role in ensuring COVID-19 vaccine access. Pharmacies are encouraged to contact us if they have COVID-19 vaccine supply issues and we can support them. We welcome feedback and questions about the Health Unit’s role in COVID-19 vaccination—we can be reached by phone at 1-800-660-5853 x2121 or by email at [email protected].”
It is true that the COVID-19 vaccine is now regarded in a similar fashion to the influenza vaccine. With a weakened COVID-19 virus now in endemic stage, getting the vaccine or a booster is very much a personal preference, except for those who have little choice but to get it due to conditions that affect immunity (such as medical diagnoses or age).
Some residents have reported that needed vaccines can be hard to come by at pharmacies or primary care providers. Residents who don’t have a family doctor (which is common) only have pharmacies as an option, which has caused some frustration when pharmacies are running low on vaccine stock. The LGLD Health Unit does hold vaccination clinics, but these are for missed routine childhood vaccines and other critical inoculations, not for COVID vaccines or travel vaccines.
As stated by Dr. Li, communication is key if residents feel that broader services are needed. Anyone wishing to get in touch with the Health Unit to share concerns can visit https://healthunit.org/ for more information on existing vaccine clinics, and for contact information.