Vaccinations ramping up this week as virus continues to spread

A mass vaccination clinic featuring individual patient pods is opening today at the Point Edward Arena. Seen here during the clinic set-up are, from left, Anita Trusler of Lambton Public Health, Nadine Neve of Bluewater Health, and Lambton County Warden Kevin Marriott. Submitted Photo

Journal Staff

Mass vaccinations are expected to begin ramping up this week with the opening of a high-volume COVID-19 clinic at the Point Edward Arena.

The design of the expanded clinic was expected to allow large numbers of people to get shots by Thursday or Friday, Lambton’s Medical Officer of Health said.

A second high-volume clinic could open at Clearwater Arena as soon as April 1. The ice has been removed and the clinic will open once the Point Edward model is tested and vaccine is available.

The “hockey hub” model allows those getting shots to remain in their own partitioned pod while staff moves through the facility, allowing more people to be vaccinated in a shorter period of time.

The public-private partnership received financial support from CAER, the Industrial Educational Cooperative, SLEA, Bruce Power and Enbridge Pipelines.

The Point Edward Arena has 60 pods, and a temporary exit ramp was being built across land owned by the Federal Bridge Corporation to accommodate an expected surge of vehicles, Lambton County said.

About 10% of Sarnia-Lambton’s eligible population had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of last week, Dr. Sudit Ranade said.

“That’s about six times more than the number of people who have had COVID-19 in the community,” he said. “I think that’s on par with the national average.”

Residents age 75 to 79 (or turning 75 this year) as well as one in-home caregiver began booking shots last week. Those who pre-register on Lambton Public Health’s website receive an invitation to schedule an appointment directly. A local call centre is also open to assist, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at 519-383-8331.

Meanwhile, the local COVID-19 picture has not improved. Sarnia-Lambton’s infection rate increased to 119 cases per 100,000 residents last week, one of the highest in Ontario.

Today, 243 active cases were reported with 14 outbreaks at senior homes and schools.

Dr. Ranade said the spread of COVID-19 variants is placing other municipalities on track to join Sarnia-Lambton in “grey-lockdown” status.

And further restrictions may be coming.

“If the cases continue to go up and the health system is threatened then (Ontario) may have to go back to the stay-at-home orders,” he said.

Sixty cases of a suspected “Variant of Concern” such as the U.K. variant had been found. None of them were linked to international travel, Ranade said.

“The concerns around variants are mounting. There’s increasing numbers of variants across the province,” he said, noting the mutated strains s are much more transmissible.

“Over time you’re going to see more and more of them.”