North Bay city council calls for more vaccines: 'Northern Ontario has a right to these things'

North Bay city council passed a motion this week calling on other levels of government to help the area catch up when it comes to vaccination rollout. (Alana Pickrell/CTV News)

Feeling frustrated and left out, North Bay city council passed a unanimous motion Tuesday calling on other levels of government to step up and help out when it comes to vaccinations in the north.

“We have a call to action to the province and the federal government saying, ‘give us a plan on how you’re going to catch us up’ and if you have no plan in that way, or in that regard, at least change the communication strategy,” said North Bay Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch. “You can’t communicate with areas that are still in Phase 1 the way you do with other areas because you’re causing anxiety and confusion.”

Officials said right now, North Bay is nearly two months behind southern Ontario when it comes to getting needles in arms.

“If you look at it, vaccinations came out mid-December (and) we got our first allotment at the end of January,” said Vrebosch. “Then we got our second allotment end of February. So now we’re getting weekly allotments, but again it’s per capita which is fine, but it doesn’t catch us up.”

“They’re vaccinating down as far as 50 and 60 in the south, we’re still at the 70 zone,” said city councillor Bill Vrebosch. “I called someplace this morning and they say ‘well, we can book you, but we can’t guarantee the fact that we’ll have the vaccine.’ So what I’m saying to you, this morning they said 100,000 people didn’t pick up the vaccine in southern Ontario, send them to us!”

The idea isn’t to take vaccines away from hotspots, but instead put the leftover vaccines to good use, said Tanya Vrebosch.

“I think a lot of people are just frustrated," she said. "We’re frustrated that, you know, there seems to be a little bit of infighting between the federal and provincial governments about saying ‘well we don’t have any because of these guys,’ ‘we don’t have any.’ We don’t really care, you know, what the rationale is, we know that we just want the vaccines here.”

“Northern Ontario has a right to these things," added Bill Vrebosch. "I’ve been representing northern Ontario for 25 years and I’ve always said north of Gravenhurst, we don’t exist. We’ve been fighting this line for years.”

According to the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit website, the area has started Phase2, with first-dose clinics in progress for people born in or before 1946. But officials say we’re still behind.

“It's really disheartening to when you’re seeing other areas saying we have appointments that aren’t being filled,” said Tanya Vrebosch.

Currently, the local health unit district has 13 active COVID-19 cases, with nine in the Nipissing district and four in Parry Sound. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 114,000 tests have been administrated with 285 cases resolved and four deaths in the region.