LONDON, ONT. -- The St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Centre will host its first vaccinations this coming Monday at 10 a.m.

During a tour of the centre Thursday morning, Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) confirmed another site at Woodstock’s Goff Hall also opens Monday.

In St. Thomas, Mayor Joe Preston was thrilled to finally see the vaccination cubicles on the floor of the arena.

“If you could see, there is a smile under here. We’re starting to see it’s the beginning of the end.”

Elgin County Warden Tom Marks expressed the same relief, especially as the tour comes on the first anniversary of the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I can remember going home many nights, with fear, because maybe we were getting some inside knowledge and we didn’t know what was coming, and to be honest we still don’t...but right now today is so optimistic. We finally got hope.”

Hope at the Memorial Centre comes in the form of 45 staffers.

Jaime Fletcher, who leads the COVID-19 task force at SWPH, says that at the peak staff in St. Thomas and Woodstock will vaccinate thousands every day.

“We could put as many as 4,000 people through two clinics. So, this clinic itself could handle upwards of 2,000 people a day, if we have the vaccine to do it.”

Fletcher says clinic hours are expected to ramp up quickly as more shots become available.

“We are prepared to work 12-hour days, 14-hour days, seven days a week to make this happen.”

Scott Wilson Vaccine
Scott Wilson, seated, and Laura Anguish stage a COVID-19 vaccination for a public information video being filmed inside the St. Thomas Elgin Memorial Arena vaccination centre.

With 200,000 people in both counties and the city of St. Thomas, Fletcher expects more than 150,000 people will receive the vaccine.

Most can expect to pass through each venue within 30-35 minutes.

Each is equipped with screening, registration, vaccination and recovery areas.

Bookings can be made through the shared online portal with the Middlesex-London Health Unit or by telephone at 226-289-3560.

Be advised bookings for the first week are full, with new appointments for the second week being released Monday, March 15, at 8 a.m.