A look into London's mass vaccination plan

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: ISTOCK (KIATTISAKCH)
The Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU) is opening new vaccine clinics and expanding eligibility.

The London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has opened COVID-19 vaccination clinics in partnership with Middlesex London Health Unit (MLHU). The first recipient of the vaccine at the newly opened clinic was Karen Dann, a long-term care home worker at Country Terrace.

Currently there are two vaccine clinics opened and operating. The LHSC site is located at the Western Fair District Agriplex and has been open since December. The second clinic is located at the Caradoc community Centre in Mount Brydges. However, the MLHU is making preparations for the opening of two additional COVID19 vaccination sites.

Still closed at the moment for safety and preparation, the new clinics will be located at North London Optimist Community Centre, 1345 Cheapside St. (North London) and Earl Nichols Recreation Centre, 799 Homeview Rd. (South London).

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Expanding eligibility will include Indigenous adults over the age of 55 and older community members who are above the age of 80, in addition to the list of frontline healthcare workers and other healthcare staff that are already eligible.

“The access through the mass vaccination clinics will be provided for Indigenous adults,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, the medical officer of health for the MLHU in a Feb. 25 media briefing before revealing future vaccine accessibility plans for the local indigenous communities in London. “[In the future] we will also provide access right on the indigenous communities in partnership with indigenous leaders in the community and indigenous healthcare providers.”

With the addition of the 80-plus community, concerns were raised about what is being done to reach seniors when they are eligible.

“We’re planning to work with pharmacare providers and health care providers, who would have rosters of clients and be able to easily identify those that are over 80 to be able to get that information directly out to them,” Mackie said.

He added that family and friends will be called to help.

“The other thing that we will be doing is, we’ll be asking family and friends to make sure that people who they know are eligible over 80 are able to get an appointment as quickly as possible.”

With the increase in eligibility for the vaccine, plans for capacity to accommodate are in motion.

“At the moment we are vaccinating over 1,100 people per day in the Middlesex and London area. So, we have capacity for more right now, the limiting factor is the vaccine supply. We can ramp up to 1,500 easily with the capacity we have… we can ramp up beyond that with the two mass clinics, if and when, the vaccine supply is available to do so,” said Mackie.

The MLHU has also launched an online appointment system to help facilitate the mass vaccination.

“We have an online booking system… this great system allows us to segregate appointments to subpopulations and links in well with telephone-based appointments… for those who don’t have access to the internet, we are still able to make those appointments.”

In preparation for the influx of eligible people, MLHU is working with The City of London to help with the process.

“We have been working with The City of London, [they] have offered their emergency operation centre… to help with staffing the phone lines for the vaccine booking, and we’ll definitely make sure that the website is ready to go for the volumes we expect,” Mackie said.

Increased eligibility also raises the issue of whether or not people will be eager to obtain the vaccine. However, there has not been enough vaccine today for everybody that wants it. This is an optimistic step towards herd immunity.

London has a large homeless population that is at high risk for contraction of the virus, and there are plans to integrate them in the mass vaccination plan.

“We have seen in some places of the world, the population of those who are homeless are at increased risk for acquiring COVID and of having a poor outcome if they do. So, they are definitely in the prioritization framework. They are phase two at this point and not first in the queue for phase two. I would anticipate that we are able to start offering vaccines to that population in April,” said Mackie.

Providing to different dosages with a large time gap in-between will be an obstacle to vaccinating the homeless population. However, the potential of a one-dose vaccine could help speed up the process.

“You can imagine there are significant logistical challenges, the most important one being the fact that we have a two-dose vaccine at this point. It’s relatively straight forward to get out to the shelter, for example, and offer one dose; but to make sure to same clients happen to be there three or four weeks later when they go back for the second dose is a bit of a challenge. [If] the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is just one dose, gets approved in Canada before [April] then that would be a huge addition.”