Last week, Ontario announced that 350 more pharmacies will be offering COVID-19 vaccines, including in Parry Sound-Muskoka.
Starting now, select pharmacies in Bracebridge, Gravenhurst, Huntsville and Parry Sound will be offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals 55 and older. More pharmacies will be added as more vaccine becomes available. Residents can find an up-to-date list at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.
Muskoka Lakes Mayor Phil Harding took to social media on Saturday to share that he is on the waiting list to get a shot and encouraged residents to get on the waiting list.
This announcement was made possible by Health Canada’s approval of the US produced batch of AstraZeneca vaccine last week. The pharmacies will start to receive the vaccine this weekend. Residents are asked to make an appointment to help prevent crowding at or outside the pharmacies and to ensure there is a dose available.
It is expected the number of pharmacy locations will expand to 1,500 by the end of April, pending supply from the federal government.
“This is great news for residents of Parry Sound-Muskoka,” said MPP Norman Miller. “My offices are hearing from many people anxious to receive the vaccine and this will make the vaccine more accessible for a larger number of people.”
These pharmacy locations are in addition to the mass vaccination clinics being run by the public health units. As of March 30th, roughly 13.5% of Ontarians had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Locally, 13.9% of residents of Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit have received a vaccine and 15.7% of North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit residents have received at least one dose.
“Because our area has a higher percentage of seniors compared to Ontario overall, it is taking a little longer to work our way through the older age groups,” said Miller.
Also last week the Ontario government has activated an emergency brake for all public health units, announcing new public health measures designed to slow and control the spread of the COVID-19 variants of concern.
The new restrictions are required because the COVID-19 variants are more easily transmitted and are proving to have more severe impacts and a higher risk of hospitalization for younger people. As of now Ontario has more patients with COVID-19 in ICUs than during the second wave and as a result some hospitals will need to further ramp down scheduled surgeries.
The restrictions will close indoor and outdoor dining at restaurants, gyms, salons and barber shops – all places where people can be in close contact for prolonged periods of time. Pharmacy and grocery stores are limited to 50% capacity and non-essential retail can open with a limit of 25% of their rated capacity. Churches and other places of worship can have 15% of capacity at indoor services or hold drive-through or outdoor services where people can maintain a two-meter distance.
Outdoor activities are permitted with the requirement that two-meter physical distancing must be maintained. The government is encouraging people to take advantage of the good weather to get outside and enjoy the outdoors while respecting the public health measures and maintaining physical distancing.
“Unfortunately it is necessary to once again increase the restrictions on businesses,” said Miller. “I know this is very difficult for all our local businesses and hard for families that, again this year, can’t gather to celebrate Easter. At the same time the expansion of vaccinations at select pharmacies does offer hope.”
School remains important for the mental well-being and development of students. As such, schools are expected to be open next week, close for the delayed spring break the week of April 12, and then reopen the week of April 19, all on the recommendation of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.