On paper, the city plan is quite impressive, but the question is, will it work for hundreds of thousands of people? And how much will the shifting guidance from scientists and the province affect that? With 85 per cent of Ottawa residents in an OPH survey intending to get vaccinated, the challenge ahead is much bigger than in the first phase of vaccination.
The vaccination of seniors, people in “high-risk congregate settings” such as shelters, front-line essential workers, including doctors, nurses and teachers, and others with high-risk chronic health conditions was to take place between April and July. Mass vaccination of the rest of Ottawa residents was to begin in earnest in August. Will that still hold?
The city plan obviously depends on a few critical things: vaccine supply and Ontario’s rollout blueprint, which OPH must follow but which doesn’t seem to be fully developed as yet. The issue comes down to execution: the ability to have the necessary infrastructure and resources in place (and pivot quickly as needed), then back this up with effective communication to reach people, especially seniors who live at home.
It’s quite easy to reach people in congregated settings such as shelters, long-term care or retirement homes. But seniors who live at home, sometimes alone and with mobility issues, pose a different challenge and every effort must be made to not leave them behind. The success of the city’s booking system for 80-year-olds in hot zones will be instructive.
The Ontario government is also launching an online registration portal, but that won’t be much good to seniors who may not have such access or even the knowledge to use the system. Phone lines can also jam up and nobody wants frustrated people to give up. We all remember the chaos back when the government moved registration for COVID-19 tests online.
Beyond that, there are two glaring holes in vaccination planning so far: understanding when second shots will be given; and the lack of clarity around family doctors and pharmacies. The city’s plan has been silent on both institutions and that may be a function of a lack of direction from the province.
Ontario has more than 15,000 family doctors willing and able to play a pivotal role in the vaccination campaign. More than any group, family doctors know their patients, they know who is vulnerable and they can reach them quite easily. Besides, they have vast immunization experience. Inexplicably however, they’ve been sidelined by the province, leaving them frustrated and disappointed.
There is, supposedly, an agreement with pharmacies. I surveyed a number of them across the city last week, and none has any idea how, or if, they’ll be involved. By now, Ontario should have sorted all this out.
Ottawa Public Health no doubt has a detailed vaccination plan, and good on the city. Premier Doug Ford says Ontario is also ready. But provincial planning so far doesn’t instil much confidence.
This content was originally published here.