MLHU keeping vaccine sites on hold as Omicron threat rises
The Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) says it is keeping “facilities on hold” should the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus spike demand for vaccines.
Tracey Gordon, the senior manager of the COVID-19 vaccination clinic, says the move is in response to a three-part wave of potential need.
She made her comments in an interview with CTV news London, following a tour of the Western Fair District Agriplex mass vaccination site. It is modified to accommodate children.Tracey Gordon, the senior manger of COVID-19 vaccination clinics for the Middlesex-London Health Unit stands in a family pod at the Agri-Plex mass vaccination clinic. The pods and areas leading to them have been adapted to be more child friendly including activities and decor. (Sean Irvine CTV News)
Currently, the MLHU is vaccinating children between five and 11 years of age, while also ramping up to give booster shots to adults over 50 starting Dec. 13.
Now, vaccination clinic staff are coping with the additional uncertainly of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus.
MLHU Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Alex Summers said this week he believes Omicron will find its way to southwestern Ontario.
Gordon says her staff is preparing to react if needed.
“We have kept some facilities on hold in the background, anticipating we will need to open them,” says Gordon. “We can increase from our current seven-hour to 12-hour shifts.”
The health unit currently operates mass vaccination clinics at London’s Agriplex and the Caradoc Community Centre in Mount Brydges.
Gordon says since children’s vaccinations began a week ago, 4,500 kids have been vaccinated, with just over 3,500 of those given in London.
She says that’s a positive start towards getting a dose into the arms of an estimated 38,000 children in the MLHU’s catchment area.
Adults who got their first and second shots at the Agriplex will notice substantial differences inside.
The facility now has two streams, one solely for kids.
Gordon says the latter is designed to keep children engaged with activities as they move through the process of vaccination.
“We’ve tried to make it a very family-friendly environment. We have look and finds, we have stress stars. We have these family pods that keep families amongst themselves to be vaccinated.”
Vaccination is the key to heading off the virus and its new variant, Gordon maintains.
Nancy Del Maestro, a public health nurse, who came out of retirement is seen preparing a dose of COVID-19 vaccine for children. Behind her is Tracey Gordon, the senior manger of COVID-19 vaccination clinics for the Middlesex-London Health Unit, on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.(Sean Irvine / CTV News)
Nancy Del Maestro concurs. The retired public health nurse signed up to fight COVID-19 one year ago.
While pleased to be vaccinating children, she admits it has been challenging to keep up with the fight.
“There have been times when you see a bright light at end of the tunnel, and then it dims again. It feels a bit dimmer right now with Omicron, but we’re doing more vaccines, so we’re getting there."