Little Redstone Lake resident David Baker is trying hard to get a COVID-19 vaccination for his wife Linda Guest, a chronic home care patient.
Guest is 76 years old, though cannot attend a clinic in person. Several health units have prioritized home care patients for the first wave of vaccines, but Baker said the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Heath Unit (HKPR) has not and he has been unable to arrange an appointment.
Baker has pushed to get his wife a vaccine sooner, to no avail. With HKPR holding a clinic for emergency responders at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre March 17-18, he is questioning how vaccines are being distributed locally.
“I see no reason why patients like her aren’t included in a prioritized vaccination rollout,” Baker said. “Let’s face it, there’s been a lot of confusion in how this vaccine has been rolled out province-wide.”
The province has opened vaccinations to the public for people aged 75 and older, though health units manage the process. The provincial rollout is in three stages, with phase one underway and phase two due to start in April. According to the provincial website, phase one is supposed to include long-term care homes, health care workers identified as high-priority, adults age 80 and over, Indigenous adults and chronic home care patients.
The second phase, due to start in April, includes other seniors and frontline workers ranging from school staff to social agencies to grocery stores.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) president and CEO Carolyn Plummer said clinics for health care workers were held March 6 at the Haliburton Family Medical Centre and March 17-18 at Pinestone. She said after a concerted effort to reach high-priority workers like first responders, some vaccines were offered to the next groups on the list. That included workers at places like grocery stores and banks.
But Plummer said HHHS was asked to hold off on this approach, as not all communities in the health unit district had completed phase one vaccinations.
“All parties are learning and improving processes as we proceed in order to ensure that all priority populations have access, in priority sequence, as directed by the Ministry of Health,” Plummer said.
The health unit said the vaccine priority list is decided by the province, with medical first responders on a high priority within phase one. Chronic homecare patients are the last group on the phase one list and the health unit said it is working to reach them.
“As the HKPRDHU covers a large geographic region, there may need to be a variety of options provided to meet the needs of residents,” the health unit said in an email.
Acting medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Gemmill, said the Pinestone clinic giving doses to people further down the list was a minor error. But he added no one will be left behind in getting a vaccine.
“People are kind of overly sensitive about what might be called queue-jumping, but I can honestly tell you that I am not aware of any situation in which this would have been done intentionally,” Gemmill said. “I am completely willing to forgive people and to say let’s just get on with more immunization rather than fuss or worry about it … Everybody is headed to get vaccine if they want it and it will only be a matter of a few weeks.”
With respect to homecare patients, Gemmill said they will be able to contact the health unit for a link to book with the provincial system. A step-by-step guide is being added to the health unit’s website.
But Baker said his wife should not have to wait.
“She should be getting it now,” Baker said. “She should be prioritized.”
Vaccination appointments are currently available for people born in 1946 or earlier using the provincial booking system. The system is available at Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or call 1-888-999-6488.