Southwestern public health expands clinics, starts to offer Pfizer exclusively

With almost 120,000 residents in the Southwestern public health region now fully vaccinated, the health unit is announcing a host of changes – including transitioning the Tillsonburg vaccination clinic to administer only the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.

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With almost 120,000 residents in the Southwestern public health region now fully vaccinated, the health unit is announcing a host of changes – including transitioning the Tillsonburg vaccination clinic to administer only the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine.

As of Wednesday, public health reported 119,200 residents have received at least one shot so far – about 56 per cent of the region’s total population. That includes about 40 per cent of teens aged 18 and 19. 

Dr. Joyce Lock, the region’s medical officer of health, announced Wednesday that all Southwestern public health vaccine clinics will be exclusively giving the Pfizer vaccine from now on, explaining the Tillsonburg clinic will no longer be offering Moderna.

“Wedo not have a big or reliable enough supply of Moderna to run clinics with only Moderna. This means that the Tillsonburg, Woodstock and St. Thomas clinics will all carry Pfizer and can vaccinate anyone over the age of 12,” Lock said.  “If you had Moderna as a first dose in Tillsonburg, we will offer Pfizer for your second dose.”

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In a statement, the health unit said the change will be in effect until June 25 and will be re-examined after that date. It means youth 12 and older can receive their vaccine at any one of the area’s three clinics.

“They can safely and effectively be used interchangeably,” Lock said.

Mixing mRNA vaccines – currently the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – was approved by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations this week, and still provides a strong immune response. Residents who want to stick with Moderna for their second dose can do so at a local pharmacy, Lock added.

There is no action required by residents who have a second shot booked at the Tillsonburg clinic.

“At the moment, we are saving the small amount of Moderna we have for our more mobile purposes. When we go out to homebound individuals or some of our congregate living settings, we use Moderna there,” said Lock, noting it was a more portable vaccine because of its storage requirements.

While the region was about a week behind the province in opening vaccination second doses to people 80 and older, Southwestern public health will fall into step with the rest of Ontario on Thursday in opening vaccinations for second shots to people 70 and older and people who received their first vaccine before April 18.

Lock said the region is also expanding the capacity for appointments at Woodstock’s Goff Hall vaccination clinic and will now be able to give about 1,000 shots per day – doubling its current 500-dose capacity.

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The same-day vaccination list will now also be open to people waiting for second-shot appointments, but only if they are already eligible to receive a second dose earlier than 112 days.

“This is another way to ensure no doses are wasted and we fill any spots left by missed or cancelled appointments,” Lock said.

These modifications to the vaccine system are expected to be in place by mid-June to accommodate high expected demand in July and August, health officials said.

“Our goal is to make vaccination as accessible as possible across our region and to get doses in arms quickly. We are on track for not only a one-dose summer, but to deliver two doses and complete protection by August to many of the people who live in our communities,” said Jaime Fletcher, manager of the region’s vaccination task force.

Find more information at swpublichealth.ca. Vaccine bookings, including second-dose appointments, can be booked online at covidvaccinelm.ca or by calling 1-800-922-0096 ext. 9.

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