MLHU expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility, announces appointment-booking

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says it is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines and has launched a new online booking system.

The MLHU says it, as well as Southwestern Public Health and Huron Perth Public Health, is expanding access “to include additional groups of health care workers, Indigenous adults who are 55 years of age and older and community members who are 80 years of age and older.”

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“We now have stable supply enough over the next few weeks to start increasing eligibility to new groups,” medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said Monday, noting that the expanded eligibility is keeping in with the provincial framework.

“Indigenous adults over 55 are considered significantly increased risk and so they are now eligible. They can book appointments starting today for as early as March 6.”

Impacted health care workers must be pre-registered through their employer but appointment-booking and actual vaccinations are immediately available for that group (a list of which health-care groups are newly eligible can be found below).

All adults age 80 and older can start booking appointments at 7 a.m. Tuesday, with vaccinations for this group also beginning March 6.

Appointments can be booked online or by calling 226-289-3560 between 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. seven days a week.

“The booking system’s called Verto, and it’s actually something that LHSC (London Health Sciences Centre) has been kind enough to share with the health unit for all of the local bookings. It’s a solid system, it’s been around for some time. We very much hope and believe it will be ready,” Mackie explained.

“The phone lines are another issue. City of London has been a tremendous partner there, has offered up staff in their emergency operations centre who will be available for phone bookings. They’ve had their training this morning and are ready and probably already taking bookings this afternoon.”

The appointments can be booked for the vaccine clinics at the Agriplex in London and at the Caradoc Community Centre in Mount Brydges.

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Outside of Middlesex County, SWPH says it is finalizing preparation for its local clinics in Elgin and Oxford counties. The clinics are expected to open the week of March 15, with information on booking appointments expected to be made public next week.

However, SWPH says those aged 80 and older and Indigenous adults 55 and older “who do not wish to wait” can book an appointment at the Agriplex in London starting March 2.

Due to limited supply, SWPH says appointments at the Agriplex are limited to March 6 to 8.

HPPH, meanwhile, says it will be opening a public booking system “in the days ahead” and that when booking opens, the health unit will be “communicating this information widely” through providers, its own website, print, radio, local news, and social media. It says clinics in its jurisdiction will begin “early to mid-March” with details available soon.

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Some health units have already begun vaccinating those age 80 and older, including the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and Chatham-Kent Public Health.

Mackie says “different communities have received different amounts of vaccine at different times.”

“Primarily earlier on it was because Windsor, Toronto, these sorts of communities were being hard hit by COVID so they actually received much larger shipments of vaccine earlier on in the campaign to make sure that their long-term care and retirement homes could be vaccinated as quickly as possible,” he added.

“The provincial target was offering vaccine to 80 plus by March 15th — we’ll be well ahead of that. From that perspective, I think we’ll be in a good position as we move into Wave 3 with our highest risk citizens starting to get vaccines this week.”

The MLHU says health care workers who are newly eligible for the vaccine include:

  • any staff/essential caregivers/residents of long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes, and First Nations elder care homes who have not yet been vaccinated
  • alternative level of care patients in hospitals who have an admission to a long-term care home, retirement home, or other congregate care home for seniors
  • frontline healthcare workers in hospital inpatients settings and procedural areas (including surgical care, obstetrics, endoscopy, operating rooms, dialysis, imaging, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy)
  • residents/staff in other congregate care settings for seniors, like assisted living facilities
  • hospital/acute care healthcare workers in frontline roles with COVID-19 patients, or at high-risk of exposure to COVID-19
  • patient-facing healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 response
  • medical first responders (paramedics, police, firefighters who are engaged in medical first response)
  • patient-facing community healthcare workers serving specialized populations

A full list of who is currently eligible for the vaccine can be found on the health unit’s website.

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