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Vaccination efforts continue in region, including 4th doses for high-risk groups

Immunocompromised residents can book fourth dose appointments through the region's vaccine system, as of Friday
FILE. A Grand River Hospital staff member holds the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be administered in the Region.

Efforts to administer first, second, third, and now fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to eligible residents, aged five and older, in Waterloo Region continue.

Public health provided its latest figures Friday, during the community update.

87 per cent of eligible residents aged five and older have received one dose, while 81 per cent have now received two. Meanwhile, approximately 53 per cent of those eligible have received a third dose. Regional clinics have administered 233,324 third doses, as of Thursday. Officials said clinics average close to 7,000 doses per day.

Until the end of January, 30,500 appointments are booked at regional vaccination clinics, while almost 16,000 spots are still available. Some of those open appointments will likely be booked by residents now eligible for a fourth dose.

"Fourth doses are being made available to immunocompromised patients to further protect vulnerable populations," said Vickie Murray, the Director of Regional Vaccine Services. "They will be eligible 84 days after their third dose."

Those eligible can now use the region's online booking system. Qualifying health conditions are listed on the Ministry of Health's website. Murray added that fourth dose vaccinations for long-term care and retirement home residents are underway, and expected to be complete by the end of the month.

"We continue to focus on vaccinating Waterloo Region's 5 to 11 year olds," added Murray. "The majority of second doses for children will start this Friday. If everyone gets dose two at the recommended interval, we will average around 900 pediatric second doses, per day, for the first two weeks."

Murray said discussion and planning is underway with local school boards for in-school vaccination. This would be an additional, and perhaps more convenient, option for some families. 

"Right now there is a lot of access for child appointments," said Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang. "We'll have to assess what the demand would be before we start to plan anything. We also have to look at what's the best use of a finite number of staff, to get the best output. We want to use those resources very prudently. We have over 200 schools in our region, but we can't hold over 200 mini clinics."

Dr. Wang also noted that many parents prefer to accompany their child for vaccination, which is why the region has made school clinics available outside of school hours.

Currently, 48.8 per cent of kids aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose.

Murray said third dose walk-ins may be an option in the near future, but it will be based purely on demand.

"It's hard to manage if everybody shows up at the same time," noted Murray. "Some of the clinics don't have a good waiting space if there's a long line up ... and it's winter ... we want to make sure we can handle the demand before we open it up to walk-ins ... but it is top of mind."

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