Vaccinations to start for Simcoe Muskoka residents 50 and older

Residents 50 and older in Simcoe County and Muskoka will be eligible to book an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, the province said Tuesday.

The Ontario government is prioritizing communities located in 13 public health units, including Simcoe Muskoka, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre's (RVH) vaccination clinic on Sperling Drive in Barrie is keeping busy, with vaccine appointments fully booked for the next two weeks for eligible residents.

At this time, the health unit's website accepts appointment bookings for those born in 1951 or earlier.  And starting Tuesday morning, the Sperling Drive clinic began Phase 2 vaccinations for those 60 to 79 who are associated with hot spot communities, congregate living settings as well as highest and high-risk health conditions.

According to Stella Johnson, manager of RVH's Sperling Drive clinic, testing for the virus has also been busy. Johnson says the clinic hasn't seen this much activity in months.

"Our testing centre has not been this busy since the end of December, early January. We're seeing upwards of 700 patients a day, some days as high as 750."

The centre was open over the long weekend, prompting visits from out-of-towners. "We are starting to see individuals coming from outside of the Barrie and Simcoe area, coming up from York Region over the weekend, as the only testing centre that was open over the Easter holiday," Johnson said.

Officials say COVID-19 testing results are typically available within 24 hours.

Select pharmacies across the region are also offering COVID-19 testing for anyone not exhibiting symptoms.