Local vaccine clinic set for high-risk tier

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The first doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine are expected to be arriving on Salt Spring in the week beginning Jan. 18 for immunization of high-risk health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities.

Members of that high-priority group who are able to travel have recently started to have vaccinations in Victoria. A Salt Spring clinic day means those who don’t have easy access to the city will also soon be on their way toward achieving COVID-19 immunity.

Aletha Humphreys, executive director of Greenwoods Eldercare Society, received her first vaccine dose at Victoria General Hospital on Sunday, and will get her second dose around 35 days later. She is happy to also have all the necessary consent forms and doctors’ orders in place so that residents of the Greenwoods complex care home can receive vaccines on site from a public health team. 

Many residents of the Braehaven assisted living facility have also signed up, Humphreys said.

“There’s a high level of interest, which is heartening. We have some residents who are vaccine hesitant and wouldn’t normally get the flu vaccine who are wiling to do this for COVID,” Humphreys reported. 

Island Health is following B.C.’s Vaccination Plan, which prioritizes residents and staff in long-term care and assisted-living situations, individuals in hospital or the community awaiting placement in long-term care, essential visitors to long-term care and assisted-living sites, hospital workers, paramedics, public health officials, and remote and isolated First Nations communities. The health authority has asked people in the broader community to remain patient because the plan does not allow booking of immunization appointments for the general public at this time. An Island Health press release issued last Thursday states a detailed approach for a mass vaccination strategy is being developed and more details are expected in the weeks ahead. 

Early vaccine roll-out was hampered by supply issues to some degree. Humphreys said it was easy to register online for her appointment in Victoria, but the first date was cancelled and rescheduled. Increasing supply will see more clinics scheduled across the Island Health area for high-priority groups in the coming weeks, however, and other at-risk sectors are expected to be vaccinated beginning in February.

Humphreys said she never imagined the full scale of the pandemic impact when she moderated a discussion with Dr. Kevin Patterson on the topic for the Salt Spring Forum last March. 

“I also didn’t think there would be a vaccine before the end of the year. That’s been incredible,” she said.

The past year has been a tense one at Greenwoods and Braehaven as staff have strived to keep residents at both facilities safe. At the same time, they have responded to the crisis by making a number of improvements and innovations with infection-control protocols.

“The team’s really pulled together,” Humphreys said. “But it has been taxing, and the biggest concern has been ensuring residents maintain contact with their families. So the vaccines have been great because they have given that optimism in the process.”

Both the Greenwoods and wider communities have meanwhile provided much-needed support. Humphreys said she is grateful because the society’s annual appeal was very successful last year and donors have been generous, families have been amazingly understanding and residents have shown incredible perseverance.

“We’re just so fortunate to be here,” she added.

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