Pembroke – It appears members of Renfrew County council are just as confused as the public about the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine rollout and they want answers.
“People are calling and asking when the vaccine becomes available where do they go and what do they do,” Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet said at county council last Wednesday, adding he doesn’t have any answers to give.
It is unclear to him if Petawawa will have local vaccinations or if people will have to go somewhere else. He said he can’t even provide answers to his wife when she asks about the vaccination rollout plan, much less members of the public.
Warden Debbie Robinson then asked the mayor if he has been involved in local planning within his immediate area.
“There are five regional tables,” she pointed out. “Renfrew and area have met. Have you been called to a meeting with the Pembroke table?”
Mayor sweet said he had not.
“Is this a work in progress?” he asked.
Director of Emergency Services Mike Nolan said there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes about how the vaccine rollout will be delivered and there will be more information forthcoming. He said Renfrew County District Health Unit (RCDHU) Acting Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Cushman is open to using something like the Renfrew County Virtual Triage Centre (RC-VTAC) for the vaccine delivery.
“There may not be just one model,” Chief Nolan added.
Since a lot of the population is aged there is more concern about them going to a central location for vaccines, he said. At this point many people have been used to having very few outings basically staying home and doing limited shopping.
“I’m not sure now is the time to change that messaging,” he said.
Warden Robinson said she was looking forward to more information coming to the county.
“I don’t understand why there are five tables,” she noted. “The Renfrew and area table have at least met. The other four, we don’t know what is going on there.”
Council had earlier heard the RCDHU is the lead agency for vaccine distribution. A regional lead table includes a physician and administrative lead from five designated areas: Pembroke, Deep River, Renfrew, Barry’s Bay and Arnprior. The paramedic services also sit at the table and the local planning tables. According to the county report, the role of the paramedic service includes transportation of the vaccine to clinic sites and providing administrative, post immunization observation and security reports. Paramedics will also provide immunization services through mobile and mass immunization clinics.
Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said concerns about making this as easy a process for county residents as possible was brought up at the local board of health of which he is a member.
“We don’t think it is appropriate to focus solely on an 8-4 off at 12:30 on Friday model,” he said. “Most of our population is not able to accommodate that.”
If people must take time off work to get a vaccine it will not work, he said.
“We want to ensure the system serves the people,” he said.
Part of this will be recognizing a traditional vaccine clinic might not work.
“There are people who are not comfortable leaving their homes,” he said.
In Toronto there has been discussion about having Wonderland used as a vaccination site. He said having an outside model in Renfrew County needs to be considered as well.
“I’m not entirely comfortable with people crowding into a building,” he said.
Warden Robinson noted in speaking to the Leader a lot of planning is going on behind the scenes to see vaccines are delivered in an efficient way in the county and most especially that no one falls through the cracks.
“The collaboration is absolutely incredible,” she said.
Work is continuing to establish a plan and people in the county will be notified once all the logistics are worked out, she promised.
“We do get calls from this on our residents and we need to be kept informed,” she noted.
As county councillors discussed the issue, vaccine rollout plans were underway at area hospitals. That morning (Wednesday) a vaccination clinic for long-term-care workers was held at Pembroke Regional Hospital (PRH). Staff from Marianhill became the first people to receive a dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine at the hospital’s first vaccination clinic. The clinic for Marianhill staff was the first of a number of scheduled clinics for groups in the hospital’s catchment area who have been prioritized to receive the vaccine at this stage of the vaccine rollout. This includes long-term care staff, essential caregivers for long-term care residents, priority retirement homes and health care workers. A second clinic was held on Thursday for workers from Miramichi Lodge.
Renfrew Victoria Hospital (RVH) in Renfrew held a vaccination clinic on Sunday. This included staff at Bonnechere Manor, the county owned long-term-care home in Renfrew.