Second dose of the vaccine now available

By Natali Trivuncic
Staff Writer

Medical officer pleased with vaccine rates, but urges those not vaccinated yet to get a shot

Today, the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is opening up clinics for the second dose appointments for anyone who had a Moderna or Pfizer vaccine at least 28 days previously.

Those who are vaccinated after April 18 cannot book through the provincial booking system. However, while the provincial booking system increases eligibility, individuals can use the NWHU booking system to book an appointment online or they can choose to attend a walk-in clinic.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the NWHU, said the second dose has been moved up in a race against the Delta variant as it has led to a significant increase in cases in the Porcupine health unit, which is a fair distance from the region, but people still move back and forth from it.

Over 70,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have now been given in the area. Seventy-one per cent of those aged 18 and older have received at least one dose and 35 per cent have now had their second dose.

“These are great coverage rates, and we are seeing many people for second doses at our clinics,” Young Hoon said. “However, we hope that first dose coverage rates will continue to increase. I urge everyone who is 12 years or older to get their vaccination.”

As of Monday, anyone who had AstraZeneca for their first dose can now get a second dose of an mRNA vaccine at an 8-to-12-week interval. These individuals can book an appointment through the online booking system, by calling the provincial call centre or by attending one of our walk-in clinics.

Young Hoon said the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations have said if available to get the same vaccine that you got for the first dose, but if unavailable, another mRNA vaccine is acceptable.

“In other words, the two vaccines Moderna and Pfizer are considered interchangeable,” Young Hoon said. “Individuals coming forward to the clinic should be prepared that there’s a possibility that they will be getting the other type of mRNA vaccine.”

The NWHU has seen incidents across the region of people being disrespectful and violence towards their clinic staff and volunteers. Young Hoon urges those attending the clinics to be respectful and kind.

“This is unacceptable and frontline workers and not the appropriate person to express your frustrations to. The NWHU and its employees must follow guidance provided by the Ministry of Health,” Young Hoon said. “Clinics where there have been issues, we will be providing security to ensure the public does not threaten clinic staff or volunteers.”

Young Hoon said the demand for the first dose of the vaccine has slowed down over the past few weeks.

“The region is currently sitting at about 71 per cent coverage for first doses, which is moderate, but it would be much better if we had a higher overall coverage rate,” Young Hoon said. “We’ll be working further on encouraging and encouraging people in hosting more clinics over the summer.”

There are currently seven active cases in the region, three in the Kenora region, three in the Dryden/ Red Lake region and one in the Rainy River District.

One new hospitalization occurred and there is currently one person in the region hospitalized with COVID-19.

“Due to low case numbers, we’ve moved back to recording in four larger areas to protect the privacy of individuals,” Young Hoon said.

Restrictions and checkpoints at the Manitoba border have not been extended. Starting today, people can cross the border for non-essential reasons.

Young Hoon said she urges the public to avoid non-essential travel to higher risk areas, including Manitoba. She adds that if travel must happen to higher risk areas, all prevention measures must be followed.

“People should limit interactions as much as possible for 14 days after returning home. I also ask that people avoid travel to areas where there’s a Delta variant. This includes the Porcupine health unit area and parts of southern Ontario, including Toronto, Peel, York and Waterloo.”

Young Hoon said due to the nature of the variant, more areas could be added to that list quickly.