Lambton County delivers doses but needs more supply in battle against virus

Ontarians looking toward Lambton County could be feeling a hint of vaccine envy. That’s because Lambton Public Health has now administered the first dose of COVID-19 to about 36,000 people, or about one third of the eligible population.

But like other jurisdictions trying to build virus immunity in its population, it is not immune to the provincial vaccine short-fall.

That’s not lost on Lori Woods-Koolen, and educator in the town of Forest. She received her first dose at a local clinic on Friday, which had been postponed from an earlier date because the supply ran dry.

“As an elementary teacher I worry a lot about COVID. Our school’s been really good. We’ve only had a couple of cases, but I think it’s just a relief to know that I’m more protected.”

Not so long ago, Lambton County was considered a hotbed of COVID-19 activity, with health officials fighting successive outbreaks at long term care homes, a correctional facility, and a number of workplaces.

Case counts now appear to be trending downward as more shots get into arms, but medical officer of health Dr. Sudit Ranade warns that so-called “hot spots” can change quickly over time.

“I think that people look at this as kind of an instantaneous thing, like a week to week comparison between what’s happening here and what’s happening somewhere else. And to some extend I think that’s kind of unhelpful, and can lead to some unhealthy competition. That’s not what we’re trying to achieve," he says.

"We’re really trying to make sure that as many places that get vaccine can deliver it as quickly as possible, and the more and more vaccine we get across the board, we get more coverage throughout Ontario.”

Right now, Lambton administers about 5,000 vaccine doses per week. It has the capacity for 12,000 to 15,000 per week through its fixed and mobile clinics, its shelter program delivery, pharmacies, and health centres.

Point Edward Arena COVID-19 vaccination clinic is closed Friday April 16, 2021 because of supply shortage. (Bryan Bicknell/CTV London)

The disparity between capacity and reality is no more evident than at the mass vaccination clinic at the Point Edward Arena, which recently dropped from six days a week to just three days a week. While standing alone in the quiet arena, Point Edward Emergency Management Coordinator Claudio Palleschi says it’s disappointing the site it’s not being used to its full potential.

“Last count we were up over 1100, leading to today’s kind of shut-down. Over a thousand a day easily here.”

Dr. Ranade says, like other jurisdictions, Lambton is at the mercy of the supply chain, which seems to be missing a few links.

“The other part of the supply piece is the absolute volume you get, but also the unpredictable nature of that supply, right? What you really need in order to step up your vaccination is a predictable supply of vaccine.”

And it’s a supply that can’t come soon enough, as Ontario case counts continue to hit record highs.

“It’s very scary,” says Woods-Koolen. “I think it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. But I don’t know... we’ve come this far, so I’m very hopeful."