On Monday, Mar. 1, 2021, members of the media toured the recently set up COVID-19 mass immunization clinic at the INVISTA Centre just hours before the clinic opened to the public for the first time.
Mayor Bryan Paterson and Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, attended the tour to address the media, and both spoke with gratitude and respect for the partnership between the City of Kingston and KFL&A Public Health over the past year as the region has waged its own war against COVID-19.
“This is a milestone moment for our community. There’s no question that this day has been coming for a long time. It’s a day that, I think, offers real hope to our community as we get this key stage in our fight against COVID-19,” said Mayor Paterson before looking back on the community’s journey through the pandemic thus far.
“I was actually thinking… that it was last March, early March, when Dr. Moore and I had our very first conversation about COVID-19. And here we are a year later, here in March, and we have our vaccination centers set up,” he said.
“I think there will be thousands of Kingstonians that will remember their journey to spots like this to be able to get their vaccination.”
Paterson went on to thank Dr. Moore and his team for the “incredible work” they’ve done over the past year, and noted that the City of Kingston is honoured to be able to partner with KFL&A Public Health on such a key goal in the fight against COVID-19.
“The INVISTA center, of course, was built with the idea in mind to be able to promote health and well-being of our community, and I can think of no greater purpose for promoting the health and well-being of our community than being able to be a host for vaccinations such as this,” he said.
Dr. Moore thanked Mayor Paterson for his words of support, and noted that, when he approached the Mayor about using the INVISTA Centre, a City-owned building, for the mass immunization clinic, Paterson didn’t hesitate to get the approval of Council and City Staff to make that happen. He also noted that he felt the INVISTA Centre was an ideal location for the clinic, as it is central within the KFL&A region, and is able to support both Kingston and South Frontenac at the same time.
“It is our plan that we should be able to immunize 3,000 people a day at this location, which is phenomenal. And it is part of our integrated strategy to be able to provide the most immunization at any one time for our population, if the [vaccine] supply can be met,” said Moore, adding that there will be clinics at the Strathcona Centre in Napanee, as well as the ongoing vaccination clinic at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), which is currently vaccinating healthcare workers. Once they have immunized the majority of the healthcare workers, that clinic may move on to a more convenient location for south central Kingston residents, Moore said. He also indicated there will be intermittent clinics at the W.J. Henderson Centre in Amherstview.
“So, all together, at any given time in KFL&A through our three major mass immunization clinics, we should be able to immunize roughly around 7,000 individuals. We also intend to bring on our primary care partners, and eventually our pharmacy partners. With that combination, we should be able to immunize 10,000 people a day if we’re given enough vaccines,” he said.
The mass immunization clinic at the INVISTA Centre is currently only serving those who are healthcare workers in the highest or very high priority categories, in line with the provincial directive for immunization priority (which Moore outlined at a press conference last week). Moore explained that KFL&A Public Health is currently piloting the province’s online COVID-19 immunization appointment booking tool, which has been used to send out invitations to the immunization clinic to those eligible for vaccinations at this time. After a week of piloting the software, KFL&A Public Health will provide feedback to the province before they officially launch the tool later this month on Monday, Mar. 15, 2021. He underlined that residents should not be calling Public Health, the clinic, their physicians, or pharmacies in an attempt to book an appointment — Public Health is not accepting calls to book appointments at this time. He also noted that KFL&A Public Health is providing a call service for those who do not have access to the internet or are not familiar with how to use online booking tools, and provided an update for where the region is in the vaccine rollout at this point, and a look at what’s to come.
“We’ve provided 5814 doses, and 2662 second doses, so we’re well on our way to starting to build the immunization strategy for our community, and very much look forward to providing vaccines to those over 80 in our community,” Moore said.
“And we’ll have a multi-pronged strategy. It just won’t be at these fixed sites, we’ll have mobile sites to be able to go to vulnerable members of our community, we’ll be going to seniors apartments where they might not be as mobile and be able to come here, and we’ll be working in our rural environments as well with our family health team, so I want you to understand that we’re going to have a multicomponent strategy that would include fixed sites, primary care, pharmacies, and mobile teams to be able to meet the needs of our community very quickly.”
The tour of the clinic included a look at how residents will book into the clinic (no more than 10 minutes before their appointments, as Public Health is trying to maintain space for physical distancing), be assigned to a vaccination site, and then be observed after the vaccine is administered. The clinic will also have an area for those who are prone to reactions from vaccinations, where individuals will be able to lie down for their shots, as well as paramedics on site.
More information will be provided to the community as KFL&A Public Health moves forward during the vaccination rollout process to ensure those who are eligible to receive the vaccine are aware.
An update on case numbers
Moore also explained that, since Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, only one case of COVID-19 has been detected. He then went on to applaud the local community for their hard work in keeping the region one with a low case count enviable across the province.
“We had no new cases today, so I have to thank the community again for clearly adhering all the best practices, wearing a mask, physical distancing, washing your hands, and staying local and supporting local at this critical time,” he said, noting that is KFL&A Public Health’s goal to keep the local economy open and the local schools safe and healthy.
“We, as a community, are doing that. We have one of the lowest rates of infection in southern Ontario at present, so I’m very proud of our community. We’re now at 2.8 [people infected] per 100,000 per week, which is one of the lowest rates we’ve had in a very long time. And the percentage of our tests that are positive are around 0.15%, so that, again, is one of the lowest percentage of tests… in the province, so I’m proud of each and every member of our community who has to allow us to achieve that,” he continued.
“We do have two patients that are isolating that have variants of concern. There is no risk to the community at present. It appears that variants of concern are spreading and becoming more frequent across Ontario.”
Update on variants of concern
The two cases of variants of concern which have yet to be identified were clearly not picked up within the KFL&A region, Moore expressed.
“They had come from the GTA. They’re isolating. There’s no risk to the community at present,” he said, once again suggesting that those who are quick to take a bet would likely bet the variant of concern is the B.1.1.7 variant, originally identified in the UK, which is currently spreading “rapidly.”
He said the GTA, Peel, York, Simcoe and Muskoka regions are clearly still in lockdown due to this rapidly-spreading variant of concern and are currently the highest risk areas in the province.
“So please, if you have to travel, make sure it’s only for essential purposes. If you leave our region and develop any symptoms, do as our community’s been doing all along, isolate yourself, get tested and we will follow up quickly with you to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread further in the community,” Moore said.
With files from Cris Vilela.