NWHU gearing up as booking site launches

By Natali Trivuncic
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Booking process open to those aged 80 and over

The provincial vaccination booking system was launched on Monday. Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said there were a few technical glitches, but many residents were able to book dates for vaccinations.

The online booking system is currently only available to those aged 80 and older.

Populations that are currently eligible to receive the vaccine that are not 80 years and older include healthcare providers and Indigenous or Métis adults. These individuals must complete the NWHU survey so that the health unit can send their information to the ministry. The survey can be found on the NWHU’s COVID-19 vaccine booking webpage.

Young Hoon said once the information is sent off, it may take a few days to receive a code.

Urban Indigenous populations are also eligible for vaccinations at this time. The Health Access Centres in Kenora, Dryden and Fort Frances are providing vaccinations. In Sioux Lookout, there is currently collaboration with tribal councils and with Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority to host its separate urban Indigenous vaccine clinics.

In addition to these options, the urban Indigenous population can attend any of the NWHU mass immunization clinics. They can use the booking process and will be required to complete the survey that is on the NWHU webpage.

As of Tuesday, the NWHU has begun reporting case numbers by health hub area instead of the four larger regions.

Six new COVID-19 cases were reported in the region on Tuesday. There are four in the Kenora health hub area and two in the Sioux Lookout health hub area.

“We are now able to do this because our daily case numbers are large enough and case information released by the ministry cannot be linked to the cases we announced,” Young Hoon said.

There are currently 76 active cases in the region, 46 in the Kenora health hub, 23 in the Sioux Lookout health hub, four in the Fort Frances health hub, two in the Dryden health hub and one in the Atikokan health hub.

During the week of March 8 to March 14, the region had 55 new confirmed cases. Thirty-three in the Kenora area, 15 in the Sioux Lookout area, three in the Fort Frances area, two in the Dryden area and two in the Atikokan area.

Of the 55 new cases, 11 were related to an outbreak, nine were close contacts of previous cases and one was travel-related. The source of exposure remains unknown for 34 of these new cases.

The NWHU has identified 143 people so far who had high risk close contacts.

Twelve new hospitalizations also occurred over this period in the area. There are currently 10 people in the region hospitalized due to COVID-19.

The NWHU has administered a total of 4,250 doses of the vaccine so far, Young Hoon said.

Young Hoon adds that the NWHU is trying to prioritize administering the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to all individuals before administering the second dose.

Young Hoon said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has pushed out guidance that the second dose can be provided up to four months after the first dose and that the first dose can give adequate protection during that four-month period.

“The chief medical officer of health of Ontario has also communicated to all local public health units that we are expected to follow that guideline for everyone,” Young Hoon said. “There are a small number of exceptions and that includes residents of long-term care homes, elder care homes and assisted living facilities.”

Those aged 80 years old and over can visit the provincial booking site to book an appointment or they can call 1-888-943-3900.