By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports from the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference held virtually March 31 with acting medical officer of health Dr. Ian Gemmill.
A mass vaccination clinic begins this week on April 6 at the S.G. Nesbitt arena in Minden, and the following week on April 12 (until June 12) at the A.J. LaRue arena in Haliburton.
Clinics are also open at the Lindsay Exhibition, which is a drive-thru site, and the Fenelon Falls Community Centre in City of Kawartha Lakes, and at the Cobourg Community Centre and Trent Hills Emergency Services Base in Campbellford in Northumberland County.
Those looking to book an appointment for a vaccination can do so online at www.ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by phone at 1-888-999-6488. If a clinic does not appear to be available, residents are asked to check again at a later date when more appointments have been added.
Some people might be eligible for a vaccine – including health care workers, Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home health care – though not old enough to use the online booking system. More information about determining eligibility and making an appointment is available here: https://www.hkpr.on.ca/2021/03/26/are-you-eligible-for-covid-19-vaccine/
MOH recommends against travelling outside of health unit region for vaccine
Gemmill has noted that anyone living in Ontario is able to get their vaccine, when eligible, anywhere throughout the province – that means people in Haliburton County can leave the county to get their vaccine, and also that seasonal residents or anyone else can get their vaccine in Haliburton County.
When asked by a reporter if that contradicts the province’s recommendations for people to avoid travel if possible, Gemmill said he doesn’t want people driving more than 20 or 30 minutes to a site.
“We should not be encouraging people to travel long distances to get this, because when you travel – you’ve heard me say this 100 times – that’s one of the ways that virus can be taken from one community to another,” said Gemmill.
He said, though, that if someone is already in a location, they can get the vaccine there rather than having to return to their primary residence.
“I do not encourage people to travel to get this vaccine,” Gemmill said.
Pandemic still a threat despite low numbers in HKPRDHU region last week
In the past 14 days, Gemmill said 57 cases have been reported in the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit, most of them not from outbreaks.
“I’m so glad about that, I’m so glad that the long-term care homes seem to be safe because of the vaccine that the residents and staff have received,” said Gemmill.
He said he remains worried about the risk of variants of concern – not that the vaccine as it rolls out won’t be effective in preventing that spread, but that it is more highly transmissible and is resulting in more cases of younger people.
“We’re not going up here in the same worrisome degree that they are in other parts of Ontario, in some ways we’re extremely lucky here, but I don’t ever want to say that things are OK here, or quiet, because things can turn on a dime as we’ve seen in other parts of the province,” said Gemmill. “You just think that things are going fine and then the next thing you know you have an outbreak that leads to 40 cases or whatever. And it’s been happening here, there and everywhere, and it could happen here as well.”
Gemmill said his colleagues have told him that in their regions, the cases of critically ill people they’re seeing more now are younger people – those in their 40s and 50s – and that intensive care unit beds are occupied in most of the major centres.
“Let’s count our blessings for the moment, and say that if there’s a third wave we aren’t really seeing it here to the same degree,” said Gemmill, noting the pandemic isn’t out of control here but reinforcing that “anything can happen” and the public should continue adhering to public health guidelines until the population is fully vaccinated.
Dr. Bocking begins role as HKPRDHU medical officer of health
The March 31 press conference marked the last for Dr. Ian Gemmill, who has been acting medical officer of health for the HKPRD health unit since Dr. Noseworthy retired in December. Dr. Natalie Bocking has worked for the last four years as a public health physician at the Thunder Bay District Health Unit and Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority. She received her medical doctorate from McMaster University and is a public health and preventative medicine specialist. During her time in northern Ontario, she was also a locum family physician. She and her family now live in City of Kawartha Lakes.
“She has a wealth of knowledge and experience in providing public health programs and services in rural areas of the province and has most recently worked with northern First Nations communities to provide public health services,” Doug Elmslie, chair of the board of HKPR District Health Unit, said.