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Monday, January 11, 2021 | 8:30 a.m. | Windsor-Essex County

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has received many questions from the community about the COVID-19 vaccine, especially when we can expect it to be distributed more widely to everyone locally. We understand the urgency, at a time when our case counts are very high, we have outbreaks across many sectors and we are in lockdown. We too, want to vaccinate everyone as quickly and safely as possible. We are working daily with the Ministry of Health regarding the priority groups for vaccination and the vaccine rollout.  Currently, vaccines are expected to be available to everyone who wants to be immunized in phase 3 of the Ontario vaccine distribution plan, which is three (3) months away or sooner, depending on vaccine supply.

The provincial government’s 3 phase vaccine distribution plan focuses first on vulnerable populations that are at greatest risk of COVID-19 and severe illness and those who care for them. The groups selected for vaccination in each phase are based on an ethical framework, best available data to identify priority populations, and the vaccine supply. Early doses of the vaccine in phase 1 will be available for the following groups.

  • Residents, staff, essential caregivers (including family caregivers) and other employees who work in congregate living settings providing care for seniors as they are at higher risk of infection and serious illness from COVID-19.
  • Health care workers, including hospital employees, other staff who work or study in hospitals and other health care personnel. (There is further guidance on how to prioritize the healthcare workers starting from those who will be at the highest risk of acquiring the disease and will be at the risk of developing more severe complications) 
  • Adults in First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations where infection can have disproportionate consequences, including those living in remote or isolated areas where risk of transmission is high.
  • Adult recipients of chronic home health care.

Given the available supply of vaccines and the burden of disease at this time, the provincial direction and the local direction is to first vaccinate ALL residents, staff, and essential caregivers in long-term care homes and high-risk retirement homes.

Public health is working directly with long-term care homes and retirement homes to ensure the vaccine is administered as quickly and as safely as possible to residents, staff, and essential caregivers of these homes. The vaccine we have received to date is for this targeted population. We are not receiving daily supplies of the vaccine and it is not sitting in freezers going unused.

Preparation and planning for future priority groups is occurring at this time. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will be working with all partners to ensure a smooth rollout of vaccines. Phase 2 of the provincial vaccine distribution plan will occur when more doses of the COVID-19 vaccine become available to Ontario and to our health unit region. This is expected to begin later this winter and vaccinations will likely be expanded to include additional congregate care settings (for example, shelters).

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is directly involved in the vaccine rollout and is aligned with direction from the Ministry of Health and the Ontario government. As more direction and information is received, we will continue to inform the community, as we’ve done throughout the pandemic, about the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccination distribution plan for Windsor and Essex County.

We will be working with all our hospital and community partners to implement a local and robust mass vaccination plan that uses our collective resources efficiently and effectively, while at the same time ensuring that other vulnerable groups not targeted in phase 1 and 2 of the provincial vaccine rollout plan are not missed. This process must be evidence-based, using an ethical framework, and not arbitrary. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve repeatedly said that we want to have everyone cross the finish line together and that remains our goal.

We are asking the community for a bit more patience. You have been amazing so far! We need you to continue to practice public health measures to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 in our community:

  1. Maintain a 2 metre distance from others.
  2. Limit your contacts to your household only.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly and often.
  4. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  5. Use a medical or non-medical mask (e.g, cloth) in public settings.
  6. Cover mouth & nose with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  7. Stay home and do not go to work or school if you are sick.

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine please visit:

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