CORNWALL – More Ontarians will be able to access COVID-19 vaccinations at clinics and pharmacies across the province after an announcement made April 11th. But none of those pharmacies are in South Dundas.
The provincial government announced a further expansion of pharmacy-delivered doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 11th.
In the Eastern Ontario Health Unit region, the number of pharmacies offering vaccines will double, from three to six.
Two unnamed pharmacies in Cornwall, along with one in the United Counties of Prescott-Russell will join the pharmacies in Winchester, Rockland and Embrun already offering the COVID-19 vaccine.
Neighbouring Leeds-Grenville-Lanark District Health Unit expanded to 22 pharmacies offering the vaccine.
EOHU Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said he does not think this region is being short-changed on locations given this region received doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines earlier than Leeds-Grenville-Lanark.
“One of the things [the Ministry of Health] is trying to do is catch up,” he said.
“When we were receiving vaccine, they were a month behind us. At the end of the day, the numbers will average out.”
The EOHU is not considered a “hot-spot” like some areas of the province like Toronto, however the region is in the top-10 of Ontario’s 34 health units for COVID-19 percent positivity and top-five for spread of variants of concern. The predominate strain detected in the region is the B.117 or UK variant, which Roumeliotis said makes up 72 per cent of active cases in the health unit region.
While Roumeliotis said that the EOHU plans on offering vaccination clinics in South Dundas at some point, he did not commit to a specific timeline or date.
“We’re working on it,” said Roumeliotis. “No hard date at this point, but we are working on mobile and other solutions as well. That’s why I am very disappointed we don’t have the pharmacies there yet.”
During a previous media briefing, Roumeliotis said the EOHU has no say over which pharmacies receive approval for offering vaccines. That decision lies with the provincial government.
Local pharmacies are willing to help on the vaccination front. Two of the three pharmacies in South Dundas have applied to administer vaccinations.
“We are just waiting for approval,” said Scott Lane, owner of Seaway Valley Pharmacy in Morrisburg. “It is a shame people have to wait here. There is nothing available in the community and many don’t want to travel outside of South Dundas to get the vaccine.”
Lane explained that for now, the pharmacy is taking names for a wait list for when they are approved.
Ryan Gilmer with Gilmer Pharmacy in Iroquois said they are waiting for approval to start giving COVID-19 vaccinations as well.
“We signed up for it,” Gilmer said. “The Ministry of Health and the Health Unit know that we want to do it. As of right now we don’t have a timeline of when we’ll get vaccines.”
He said that Gilmer’s is also taking names for its waitlist, via the PharmaChoice website.
“The goal is 1,500 pharmacies by the end of April, so I am hoping we are included in that,” Gilmer added.
The Leader contacted Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell’s office to ask why more pharmacies in the riding or public health unit were not approved for giving vaccinations. No response was received from the MPP’s office by the publication deadline for this story.
There are three pharmacies in the SDSG riding which will offer vaccinations, but the neighbouring Leeds—Grenville—Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes riding, which has 10,000 fewer residents than SDSG, has six locations including Gananoque, Brockville, Westport, and Kemptville.