Public health and pharmacies can use additional support, says St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens
Frustration continues to grow among Niagara residents struggling to schedule appointments for COVID-19 booster shots, with demand expected to surge when 50-year-olds become eligible for third doses starting Monday.Although St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens shared those concerns at Queen’s Park Thursday, asking the province to increase capacity in the region, she said the government apparently failed to understand the situation in Niagara where only participating pharmacies and doctors offices are currently providing booster shots.“Seniors in Niagara are left waiting for their booster shots when we know they are vital to fighting the new variants,” Stevens said during question period, broadcast on the legislative assembly website.
Although she said she supports the decision of Niagara Region Public Health to prioritize vaccinations for children five to 11 years old who have yet to receive their first dose of vaccine, “it has put pressure on the pharmacies across Niagara to deliver booster shots to seniors quickly.”She said public health and pharmacists have been “heroes throughout the pandemic and continue to be.”
“However, they can use some needed support. We’ve ramped up capacity before looking at the Omicron variant and the incoming Christmas holidays. If this government is serious about the booster efforts and vaccinating children, will you ramp up capacity so seniors in Niagara that want a booster before the holidays can get it?”Ontario government house leader Paul Calandra responded, saying the province has boosted supplies of COVID-19 vaccine.
“We have had a groundbreaking effort across Ontario, part of the massive investments that we’ve made,” he said.
“We will continue these investments, continue these efforts, so ... we can continue to get not only the boosters, but our kids double vaccinated and even surpass that 90 per cent (rate of vaccination), which is a world leading figure right now.”Stevens, however, said her office staff “are scrambling” to help constituents find appointments to get booster shots, while offering to assist anyone in need of an appointment.“It is getting harder and harder to find appointments … Ontario has the supply, there are solutions the government could act on, but they haven’t. Seniors are stuck waiting and waiting because of poor planning.”Asked again if the government will ramp up capacity to meet the demand in the region, Calandra said “the government has done just that.”He called it “wonderful news that so many people are lining up to get their booster.”
Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch has heard similar concerns from constituents, who reached out to him after spending hours calling pharmacies to book timely appointments to get their shots.Welland resident Jack McBrayne said his wife spent well more than an hour on the phone to schedule booster shot appointments, and the best she could do was for Jan. 13.“It’s really annoying,” McBrayne said. “They keep telling us we have to have them, but they’re not really available.”
He said other jurisdictions such as Mississauga continue to offer numerous vaccine clinics, where people can visit without an appointment and get their booster shots. But in Niagara, “it’s sort of like we’ve been forgotten,” he said.