Vaccine Distribution Finally Begins in Guelph, Wellington, Dufferin

At a media even on Wednesday morning, Sarah Ricci of the Shelburne Long-Term Care home became the first person in Wellington, Dufferin or Guelph to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Ricci said “Today represents hope!” and in more than one way it does after a couple of days of confusion about exactly how many does of the Pfizer vaccine our public health authority would receive, and when they would get here.

“This is tremendous news for our region,” said Medical Officer of Health  Dr. Nicola Mercer in a media statement on Tuesday. “I’m grateful for Pfizer’s ongoing support in ensuring we could begin vaccinations as soon as possible. The distribution of this vaccine on a global scale is a tremendous logistical challenge and it’s clear Pfizer is taking all possible steps to make this process as smooth and as quick as possible.”

Public Health was preparing to start handing out the first 500 doses of the vaccine on Monday, but there was a delay in the shipment. Dr. Mercer reported that the delay was on Pfizer’s end, but in their own statement, Pfizer said that they were not aware of any delays and shipments were arriving “according to scheduled delivery timelines.”

On Tuesday, Public Health announced that they had heard from Pfizer that the vaccines were on the way and ready for a soft rollout Wednesday and the commencement of the full regional vaccine program on Thursday January 7.

The selection of Ricci, who is the Programs Manager of the Shelburne LTC, as the first person to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was not without symbolism. Shelburne was hit especially hard during the initial weeks of the pandemic with 75 reported cases and 20 fatalities as a result of the virus. Presently, Shelburne LTC has no outbreak on site, but a dozen other long-term care and retirement homes in our area are currently struggling with one.

But another virus was still pre-occupying the minds of many people, the virus of public officials who were taking vacations over the holidays while everyone else was being encouraged to lockdown and avoid getting together with friends and family. This time, the person has a connection to Guelph as it’s the CEO of St. Joseph’s Health System, who was on vacation in the Dominican Republic between December 18 and January 5.

“I regret this non-essential travel and I’m sorry. I recognize everyone should be avoiding non-essential travel now, including me,” said Dr. Tom Stewart in a statement. “As a health system leader, my actions in no way reflect the tireless dedication and commitment of the staff at St. Joseph’s Health System, who continue to live the legacy of our organization every day.”

Stewart will be self-isolating for two weeks, but it seems that his job is safe at the moment. Meanwhile St. Joseph’s Guelph facility announced the end of a COVID outbreak on the same day that Stewart returned from vacation.

On Wednesday, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health noted 70 new cases of COVID-19 in our area to peg the current number of active cases at 438 including 198 cases in Guelph, 74 in Wellington County, 97 in Dufferin County, and 69 that are unassigned. Another person in our area died from the virus, to bring the total number of fatalities from the virus up to 49. The 7-Day moving average of confirmed cases is now 123 out of 100,000 and the 7-Day moving average for test positivity is now nearly five per cent.

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