Ontario Government Announces Measures to Go the “Last Mile” on Vaccines

As of Tuesday, a little over two-thirds of all Ontarians (meaning not just Ontarians eligible for a vaccine) have been fully vaccinated, which is not too shabby. Still, about 17 per cent of people in Ontario have yet to receive even one COVID-19 shot, and while there are numerous reasons for that, the Government of Ontario wants to help those people get their shots with a “last mile strategy.”

“Vaccines are the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant,” said Minister of Health Christine Elliott in a statement. “Working with our public health partners we are continuing make it easier and more convenient to receive the vaccine. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet and have questions, I encourage you to reach out to your pharmacy, family doctor or primary care provider.”

The direction comes at a time when many public health units, including Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, are closing down mass vaccination centres. The last clinics in our region closed last week as WDG Public Health is now moving to pop-up clinics like they did last weekend downtown, and like the one they’ll have tomorrow night at Westminster Woods Public School. Shots are also available at the Public Health offices in Guelph and Drayton for anyone that needs either their first or second doses, and they’re also available at over 2,500 pharmacies across Ontario as well as at some doctors’ offices.

Look for more of this with the “last mile strategy”, where the government and public health units will focus on community-based pop-ups and day clinics, plus special clinics at community events as methods to get the last 20 to 25 per cent of eligible people in Ontario fully vaccinated. The government said that they will also help public health units go through postal codes to determine general areas with low vaccination rates. Once identified, mobile clinics like GO Transit’s GO-VAXX program, which has so far given out 1,100 shots, 42 per cent of which were first doses, will be one way to give out shots.

“This is my call to arms. It is vital for everyone who can to receive both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore. “We are implementing many community-based initiatives so everyone can easily receive their vaccine, especially those who live in areas with lower vaccination rates.”

Among the people currently eligible for a COVID-19 vaccines in Ontario, which includes anyone born in the year 2009, 83 per cent have received one shot, and nearly 76 per cent have been fully vaccinated. In Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph 83.4 per cent have received one shot, and 77.6 per cent have received both, while in Guelph alone 89.1 per cent have gotten one shot and 83.1 per cent have gotten both. More than 20.5 million doses have been handed out so far.

Opposition leaders didn’t have an issue with a push-on from the Provincial government to get the last portion of the population vaccinated, but they definitely have an issue with how they’re doing it.

“If Doug Ford really wanted to increase vaccine uptake, he’d make vaccines mandatory for frontline education and health care workers and implement a vaccine certificate,” said Guelph MPP Mike Schreiner. “Ford also must break down barriers through paid time off for vaccinations and recovery.”

Schreiner also called out Premier Doug Ford for his recent absence from provincial affairs as once again Dr. Moore made the announcement alone in a live-stream with reporters. He also said that the Province needs to do more to prepare for a fourth wave response than just vaccinations.

“On top of doing more to increase vaccination uptake, we need to ramp up testing to make it more accessible and convenient. Testing centres should be opening, not closing, and regular testing should be available in schools, workplaces and community spaces,” Schreiner added. “We can’t risk overwhelming the health care system or shutting down schools and small businesses again.”

“Ontario families need responsible leadership and decisive action to keep them safe, and that means making vaccination mandatory in some higher risk nonessential settings,” Liberal leader Steven Del Duca added in his own statement. “The only way Ontario’s economy can stay open is by taking action now. “This is about protecting our most vulnerable and stopping the fourth wave.”

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