Public Health Says They’re Ready to Scale Up on COVID Shots, Just Need More Doses

Like how the Victoria Road Recreation Centre was once the location of the local COVID-19 assessment centre, the West End Community Centre is now a mass vaccination site. On Tuesday, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health opened the doors to their newest vaccine clinic set up in one of the two ice rinks at the rec facility on Imperial Road, part of their plan to make it easier to give out an increased number of jabs as more vaccine becomes available.

“For a few hundred doses a day, the public health office is more than sufficient, but when we’re talking about real mass vaccinations, as those supplies really start to open up, you can see there’s real scalability here we just don’t have at our office,” said public health spokesperson Danny Williamson. “As the supply begins to roll in, we can start to open up bookings, and ultimately between 10,000 and 14,000 doses is the kind of capacity that we can scale up to.”

Until Tuesday, Public Health had been giving out shots to Guelphites at their Chancellors Way office since the first doses of the vaccine arrived in town on January 6. Now, there are four different locations in handing out vaccines in Guelph, in addition to the doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine being given out in the Primary Care Pilot through local family doctors.

“Supplies are limited right now, so we’re getting between three and 5,000 doses a week. From a pure capacity standpoint, we could deliver that almost exclusively at Chancellors Way so there is tons of capacity here,” added director of health  protection Christopher Beveridge.

The clinic is set up in one of the two ice rink in the northern end of the West End Community Centre. Patients are directed to park in the rear lot and enter the centre at the rear doors, and walk down to registration tables outside the rink. After that, patients head into the rink where they get their shot and then move to the other end to a waiting area where they can sit for 15 minutes, and see if they experience any adverse reactions.

“That’s the beauty of these municipal facilities, there are two ice pads that can be scaled up so that this side can be completely filled with vaccinators, and then this side, when the ices comes out, can be filled with people who are recovering,” Beveridge continued.

There’s also a private space for people to lay down if they experience a more extreme reaction. It’s worth noting that the World Health Organization reports that the most common reaction to the four approved COVID-19 vaccines is a fever or chills, muscle pain, headache, and pain at the injection site. WDG Public Health said that they’ve yet to see a very serious reaction to a vaccine at any of their clinics.

“In our region we have nothing to speak of as far as adverse reactions,” Williamson said. “When you have a mass vaccination clinic, and when you’re talking about hundreds of millions of vaccines, you are going to have a small portion of adverse reactions, but by and large, all four of these vaccines have been very safe so far.”

While the Guelph Family Health Team manages at the University of Guelph and the Skyjack facility on Woodlawn Road, Public Health will manage the new clinic and will continue to give out shots at the Public Health office on Chancellors Way. The main clinic for Guelph though will be the West End Community Centre, but Williamson explained that when it’s your turn to get the shot, use the location that’s most convenient for you.

“If you can make the drive to Orangeville or to Fergus, make your appointment at the most convenient place,” Williamson said.

Public Health is also working on other potential measures to make rolling out the vaccine easier.

“We haven’t figured out the process yet, but we’re hoping at some point people can use mobility transit to come here, leave the bus, be vaccinated on site and then just go back on mobility to make things easy for them,” explained clinical consultant Camille Loucks.

The rec centre clinic is staffed by nurses who have been trained on the protocols for all four of the approved vaccines, though the clinic will be handling shots of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the foreseeable future. A variety of people, including students, also work on site as office and support workers, plus security.

People in Wellington, Dufferin and Guelph who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine are still encouraged to use this region’s public health registration system, and not the newly established provincial system. “We’ll keep an eye on the provincial system, and at some point that switch may happen,” Williamson said. “The reason we would switch is because both at the provincial level and the local level, it would make more sense in order to get vaccines in arms faster.”

The clinic at the West End Community Centre is operating by appointment only with hours dependent on the availability of vaccine supply.

According to Public Health’s vaccine dashboard, just over 28,000 vaccine doses have been delivered in the region, while 21,405 have received a full course of vaccination. So far, 8.4 per cent of people in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph have been completely vaccinated, including 96 per cent of long-term care residents, and 65 per cent of long-term care staff.

“We’re here to do whatever we can to help with the logistics and get vaccinations in arms,” said Mayor Cam Guthrie, who was also on hand for the media availability. “That’s our role, it’s been our stated goal right from the beginning of the partnership, and we’re going to see it through to the end.”

“We are grateful to the City of Guelph, the Mayor and Council, and all the staff who have played a role in making this clinic a reality,” Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer said in a statement. “The City has been an incredible local partner in the fight against COVID-19.”

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