By: Mike Anderson
When the Georgina Ice Palace vaccination clinic opened ahead of schedule in early March, no one was happier than Mayor Margaret Quirk.
After all, York Region Public Health initially said the clinic wouldn’t open until April, a whole month after the other mass vaccination clinics.
But that didn’t sit well with Mayor Quirk. And she pushed behind the scenes to get the clinic opened earlier.
“They were saying we needed to be ready. We needed to go fast. So, I sent them a picture of the clinic because a picture is worth a thousand words. And I said this is the set-up, and we’re ready to go. That certainly helped. And, of course, getting additional vaccines was also key,” Mayor Quirk said.
“I’m so proud to have this vaccination clinic as part of the rollout. It makes me feel very proud of Georgina, the staff, public health; everybody is working together as a team.”
Mayor Quirk also said that the response she’s received from residents is overwhelmingly positive.
“I’ve gotten a lot of positive emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook posts, saying the staff are friendly and helpful and the needle didn’t even hurt,” she said.
“And they’re just happy to know that that they’re part of ending the pandemic, and we’re all getting through this together.”
Despite some early hiccups, the pace of the vaccine rollout in Georgina has picked up steam.
According to public health, a total of 5,308 residents have been vaccinated at the Ice Palace, which represents roughly 12 per cent of Georgina’s population of 45,418 (2016 Census).
The busiest day was March 3, when 698 people were immunized in one day.
This is remarkable given the clinic’s capacity, according to public health, is 500 appointments per day.
So far, the number of vaccinations in Georgina is outpacing York Region as a percentage of the population.
To date, 110,669 vaccines have been administered in York Region, representing 10 per cent of the region’s population of 1.11 million (2016 Census).
On March 23, York Region opened vaccination bookings to residents age 70 and older (born 1951 or earlier).
“On March 23, York.ca saw its highest daily user demand thus far with the site remaining stable and experiencing no downtime,” Patrick Casey, York Region’s Director of Corporate Communications, said in an email The Post.
“More than 14,000 COVID-19 vaccination appointments have been booked by residents today.”
“This is great news for our residents, as York Region continues to make significant progress in vaccinating priority populations.”
Although the province launched its booking portal on March 15,
six of the seven current vaccination clinics in York Region, including the Georgina Ice Palace, continue to use the existing booking systems; you can book an appointment at any of the six clinics by visiting york.ca/COVID19Vaccine.
While mass vaccination sites, like the Ice Palace, are one way to get many people vaccinated quickly, Mayor Quirk said York Region plans to roll out other options, including a drive-thru clinic set to open at Canada’s Wonderland on March 29.
“There’ll be other ways that people will be able to get the vaccine,” she said.
“There’s plans being put in place to vaccinate people that can’t travel or that are far away from a particular clinic. There’ll be mobile clinics, pop-up clinics, and at-home visits for those seniors and people that are housebound.”
York Region started vaccinations of homebound individuals this week.
“The list of homebound residents is actively being compiled, and our mobile team will reach out to residents to schedule in-home vaccinations,” Mr. Casey said.
“If you receive home care through the LHIN, hospital or a home care agency, you are already on the list.”
“There are more than 3,000 homebound residents in York Region, and it will take some time to reach all of them.”
Another option for people aged 60 and older is to get a shot at a pharmacy.
The provincial pharmacy pilot project, which administers the AstraZeneca vaccine, is currently underway in select regions, including Toronto and Windsor.
But it is not yet available in York Region.
The nearest participating pharmacy, Shoppers Drug Mart, is located at 5671 Steeles Ave East, approximately 54 km away.
To book a pharmacy appointment, visit https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.