Local health unit working on vaccination details, doses could arrive as early as next week

While stored at sub-zero temperatures, the vaccine is room temperature when it goes into your arm

As the Ontario Government ramps up its province-wide vaccination program, local health officials are still ironing out the details.

“The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is working in partnership with RVH in order to deliver this vaccine,” said medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner. “We don’t know for sure exactly when we will start getting the vaccine; it’s possible that it could be as early as next week, we shall see.”

The early form of the vaccine, the Pfizer version, must be stored at -70 degrees, meaning it will be a challenge to administer. “The Pfizer vaccine is such that it’s technically demanding to work with, and so we’d be limited to where we could administer that vaccine,” said Gardner. “We would be very much focusing, at the very beginning, on health care workers, particularly those that provide care to individuals in long term care facilities, and retirement homes, and other congregate settings for senior citizens, given that that’s a population that has had by far the greatest mortality and serious complications from COVID-19.”

Despite the fact the vaccine is stored at sub-zero temperatures, it won’t be freezing cold going into you. “It is deliberately reconstituted with what we call normal saline, which is a sterile salt solution, a solution that’s commonly used in medicine, in order to have it prepared to be able to administer by injection into the muscle of your arm. By the time you get it, it’s room temperature,” Gardner told Barrie 360.

Gardner indicated more details of the local vaccination effort could become apparent as the nation’s vaccine supply becomes more steady. “We do anticipate that more vaccines will be approved by Health Canada and a greater supply will become available going forward, nationally, and provincially,” said Gardner. “The big picture would be that we would be busy providing vaccination for most of next year.” He indicated local officials could be administering the vaccine into the fall of 2021.

The majority of the population would have to get the vaccine in order for it to be effective, according to Gardner. “We would be targeting, ultimately, getting coverage of 70% of the population in order to break the chain of transmission and have this brought under control, and be able to lead more normal lives.”

Ontario’s first vaccines were administered to healthcare workers in Toronto on Monday, a day ahead of schedule.