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Health Unit implements new approach in hopes of reaching higher vaccination levels

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The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit is starting to move away from mass vaccination clinics.  

Dr. Jim Chirico, Medical Officer of Health, says vaccine strategies are in development to help reach people facing different barriers to accessing the COVID-19 vaccine.  

“We have cancelled clinics with extremely low appointments scheduled for next week. Instead, we have started to have a targeted approach to reach people who have not yet received their vaccine,” he says. “We have offered walk-in appointments at many of our COVID-19 vaccine clinics and (Wednesday) hosted a walk-in only clinic from 5-8 pm in West Nipissing.” 

Twenty-four percent of residents 12 and older have not yet received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine in the region. 

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Andrea McLellan, Director of COVID-19 Immunization Strategy, says barriers to vaccination include not being able to get to a scheduled clinic because of work, or they have young children and no one to watch them.  

“Additionally a large number of that 24 percent is in that younger age group between 18 and 45-50 years of age.  Part of it is misinformation, part of it is vaccine hesitancy and there’s also a group in there that they’re not going to be immunized no matter what information or what barriers we try to remove, they don’t believe in vaccines and they’re not going to be immunized.”

She also says moving away from mass immunization clinics gives them the opportunity to reach people where they’re at. 

“Mobile and pop-up clinics are a key example.  If you can put up a pop-up clinic in a grocery store you might get a few people who might have otherwise been immunized,” McLellan says. 

In terms of reaching provincial vaccination goals like 80 percent, Dr. Chirico says it’s really up to the public to reach them. 

“We will make every effort to have ease of accessibility to the vaccines, but people have to want to be vaccinated and we will do whatever we can to see that that happens,” he says.  

Shannon Mantha, Executive Director of Clinical Services and Chief Nursing Officer, says they’ve seen an increase in cases across the Nipissing District, with many of the cases in the West Nipissing area. 

“82.4 percent of cases reported in the last two weeks were close contacts of individuals who have tested positive and acquired the virus in various social settings.  Almost all of these individuals, almost 94 percent, were not fully immunized,” she says.  

Mantha says these statistics drive home the point that social gatherings which include individuals who have not been vaccinated put everyone at risk and have a ‘significant’ ripple effect throughout the district.

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