With military-like precision, a team of doctors, nurses and staff from the Niagara North Family Health Team vaccinated about 150 people Wednesday at a special clinic at the old Niagara-on-the-Lake hospital.
“We're very excited! We've been patiently waiting,” 29-year-old NOTL resident Samantha Miller said as she waited.
From screening patients at the entrance, through registration, getting the jab and the “check out,” the whole operation is organized to run smoothly, says Dr. Karen Berti.
“This is our fifth time, so it's worked out quite nicely,” she said, referring to earlier clinics held for patients of the health team.
After asking public health officials for up to 600 vaccine doses, the Virgil-based medical practice received 150 shots of Moderna to distribute as first doses.
Many of the patients who signed up were in the 18- to 39-year-old demographic, Berti said in an interview.
That's encouraging, she noted, as across the province younger people have embraced the chance to get their first shots.
Nineteen-year-old NOTL resident Jasmine Garland was among them.
“My mom's a doctor, so I know how important this is,” she told The Lake Report just before receiving her first shot of the Moderna vaccine.
Olivia Frank, 19, was raised in NOTL but attends school at the University of Waterloo. She was excited that the special clinic enabled her to get her first dose so quickly.
“It's so much faster than it would have been in Waterloo. The wait list up there is about a month and a half to two months,” Frank said.
For health care workers, after more than a year of dealing with COVID, being able to inoculate patients is a welcome change.
“This is the happy part,” said Berti. “It's the feel-good moment after 15 months of lots of non feel-good moments.”
It's unclear when the health team might get another batch of vaccines and there is no timeline for replenishment, Berti said.
It's the same story for Stone Road Pharmacy in Virgil, where owner Julie Dyck said she is waiting for more vaccine. In the meantime, “we're still managing our waitlist and will be ready to vaccinate anyone over 12-plus when stock arrives.”
As of May 23, the province allowed those under 18 to register to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Simpson's Pharmacy still has some vaccines available, with Pfizer at its Virgil location and Moderna at the Apothecary on King Street, pharmacist Sean Simpson said.
Berti said overall the first-dose vaccine rollout is going well, but there's room for improvement.
“I think we're doing better as a country and as a province getting first vaccinations in arms. What we're not doing that well with right now is getting second vaccinations in,” she said, noting the extended lag time between first and last shots.
“That timeline is fairly long and I do wonder if that will get shortened,” she said, acknowledging the situation is changing day to day.
“It gives people a lot of relief to know they have had the second shot” and are fully vaccinated.
Berti said she has seen some vaccine hesitancy, particularly around AstraZeneca and worries about blood clots, but many others were happy to get whatever shot was available.
“Now, I think people generally want to just move on,” she said. “They want to salvage a summer. It's been a long 15 months for most people.”
With files from Evan Saunders