Coronavirus SociaL Media - PROVINCEWIDE SHUTDOWN
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COVID 19 Vaccine and Immunization

As we continue to work hard to stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities the approval of vaccine and the beginning of COVID-19 immunization in Ontario provide a more optimistic picture for the future. The health unit, in partnership with key community stakeholders is leading the efforts to immunize residents in Simcoe Muskoka. Information around this topic is changing quickly. Read the frequently asked questions (FAQs) - Jan. 5, 2021 for more information and check back often for updates.

As we wait for the COVID-19 vaccine to be available for everybody who wants it, we must not let our guard down. It will take many months for our population to be immunized, so it is important that we continue to practice the public health actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include: 

  • limit close contact (the people you can hug and touch without physical distancing) to the people you live with. If you live alone, you can have close contact with only one other household. 
  • wear a mask or face covering in all indoor public spaces 
  • keep a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from anyone outside your household 
  • wash your hands frequently 
  • stay home if sick, and get tested if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.

After independent and thorough scientific reviews for safety, efficacy and quality, Health Canada has approved two vaccines for use in Canada. 

This means the vaccines:

  • were tested on a large number of people through extensive clinical trials 
  • have met all the requirements for approval, including safety 
  • will be monitored for any adverse reactions that may occur after vaccination and appropriate measures will be taken.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety.

Did you know that approved COVID-19 vaccines completed the same development and approval process as all other vaccines approved for use in Canada? Two things happened a little differently with the COVID-19 vaccines: 

1. Different phases of vaccine development were occurring simultaneously, instead of waiting for one step to be done at a time (shaving off years to the usual process!). 

2. Health Canada fast-tracked the approval process by reviewing data as it became available throughout the development phase (instead of the usual process of reviewing all of that data once the clinical trials were completed).

Currently there are more than 150 potential COVID-19 vaccines at different stages of development around the world.

Find out about Vaccines and treatments for COVID-19: Progress

Find out about COVID-19 vaccines that are authorized in Canada.

On December 15, 2020, Ontario started to roll out its three-phased implementation plan. Learn about Ontario’s Vaccine Distribution Implementation Plan.

Phase One of the vaccine implementation program is expected to see approximately 1.5 million eligible people vaccinated.

The vaccine is currently being offered to:

  • health care workers
  • essential caregivers  
  • long-term care home and retirement home residents
  • First Nation communities and urban Indigenous populations, including Métis and Inuit adults

Learn more about getting a COVID-19 vaccination in Ontario.

Vaccination of residents, staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes has begun in many parts of the province, with the goal of having the first dose administered in all homes no later than February 15, 2021. The vaccination of all staff and residents in long-term care homes in four areas with the highest rates of transmission, Toronto, Peel, York and Windsor Essex, is expected to be completed by January 21, 2021.

Phase Two is expected start as early as March 2021 with completion by end of July 2021 and Phase Three for the general population could begin as early as August 2021, pending availability of vaccines. Vaccination of populations in Phase One will continue until all vaccinations are complete.

Groups eligible to receive vaccines as part of Phase Two of the Ontario immunization program will include:

  • Older adults, beginning with those 80 years of age and older and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout;
  • Individuals living and working in high-risk congregate settings;
  • Frontline essential workers (e.g., first responders, education workers, food processing industry);
  • Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers; and
  • Other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater COVID-19 risk.

As the vaccine supply increases, and guided by the Ethical Framework for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Ontario is also enabling more health care providers to administer the vaccine as quickly and safely as possible.

The Simcoe Muskoka COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Advisory Committee was formed January 13, 2021. Its purpose is to advise the health unit on the planning and coordination of the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19 for the population within the geographic boundaries of the County of Simcoe and the District Municipality of Muskoka.

The objectives of the Committee are:

  • To advise health system partner leads on how to operationalize provincial mass vaccination campaign.
  • To identify local health systems risks and operational implications that may impede campaign.
  • To identify strategy/mechanism to allow for the identification/enumeration of vulnerable populations within communities.
  • To explore resources, opportunities and supports to allow for health system partners capability and capacity to carry out mass vaccination campaign.
  • To facilitate the coordination, cooperation and communication between heath care organizations and agencies within the identified communities and with the Province and other organizations as required.
  • To develop a localized strategy/plan for community based vaccination distribution/administration .

Committee membership includes representation from the following sectors in Simcoe Muskoka: public health, primary care, First Nations communities and urban/rural Indigenous populations, acute care (hospitals), community pharmacies, long term care and paramedic services (both via municipal representation from Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka), the Local Health Integration Networks, and the Central Region of Ontario Health.

To view the full Terms of Reference click here.

The vaccine is currently being offered to:

  • health care workers and essential caregivers who work in long-term care homes retirement homes, other congregate settings caring for seniors, 
  • residents of long-term care (LTC) and retirement homes (RH),
  • prioritized hospital workers.

The immunization program began administering vaccines to residents in long-term care homes on January 12, 2021, following the recent decision by the provincial government that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be safely transported to the homes. Retirement homes will begin to receive the vaccine next week.

A COVID-19 Immunization Clinic is open in Simcoe Muskoka for priority groups. The clinic, a partnership between the health unit, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) and the city of Barrie, opened December 22, 2020 and since then, almost 8,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered. In fact, the Barrie clinic is one of the busiest vaccine sites in the province. The clinic, on Sperling Drive, is located in the same building as RVH’s COVID-19 Testing and Assessment Centre. It serves all of Simcoe County and Muskoka District.

An initial allocation of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was delivered to Simcoe Muskoka the week of December 21st, with more to arrive in the weeks ahead.

Watch a short video of Lori Black, personal support worker in Barrie, be the first person to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Simcoe Muskoka on Dec 22nd..

SMDHU immunization nurses will administer the vaccine to a limited number of prioritized people by invitation and appointment only, beginning with long-term care and rest and retirement home staff. As vaccine supply and additional vaccines are approved by Health Canada, distribution and vaccination will be expanded. 

The vaccine will NOT be available to the general public until spring 2021 and it is expected it will take another six to nine months to immunize all Ontarians who want to get the vaccine.

With the approval and distribution of a safe and effective vaccine, we have recently reached a turning point in our fight against COVID-19. As the limited supply of vaccine is rolled out in phases across the province, we are optimistic that as it becomes available to certain populations in our communities the uptake of it will be welcomed enthusiastically.

At this time long-term care and rest and retirement home staff are among the first selected to be eligible for the vaccine. Staff will be contacted through their workplace about the process and timing of scheduling an appointment to receive the vaccine.

Read these frequently asked questions (FAQs) for what you need to know before your vaccination appointment.

Congratulations to Lori Black, PSW in Barrie, who was the first person in Simcoe Muskoka to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on December 22nd. Watch the short video of Lori being immunized. 

We recognize that the decision to get immunized is a personal one but we strongly encourage you to take this voluntary opportunity to not only protect yourself, but also your families, your clients and the greater community.

Please take a moment to watch this video from our Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Colin Lee.

Read more about:

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is working with partners to plan and administer COVID-19 vaccine in Simcoe Muskoka, beginning with those at the highest risk and phasing in the availability of vaccine for all other residents who want to be immunized over the course of 2021. This vaccine roll out follows the provincial government's COVID-19 vaccination program.

Locally, we’ve had many individuals and organizations reach out to indicate their interest in supporting this monumental effort. If you are interested in volunteering, please complete and submit this online form. If you are interested in a paid position you may also use the online form and we will send further information as available related to applying for employment opportunities as they arise. We appreciate your interest in supporting these efforts.

Please note we may not be able to respond immediately to all offers of assistance but we will reach out where needs arise.

Page Last Updated: January 14, 2021

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