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Health Unit comments on local COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

'Some people need a familiar health care provider to really reassure them that the vaccine is right for them'
20210318 clinic vaccine
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Memorial Gardens in North Bay. Photo supplied.

Local health officials are still giving the standard advice when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations — they recommend taking the first one made available to you.

Meanwhile, Andrea McLellan, the lead for the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit's vaccine rollout would not speculate on the specific reasons some members of the public are not booking appointments to be vaccinated.

"It may be a lack of confidence in immunizations overall, it may be a personal choice they are making at this time and waiting to receive further information," she said, noting there are excellent resources out there for those who are hesitant. "We are providing as much information to the public as we can — our website holds a wealth of information, the Ontario.ca website has a lot of information about the vaccine, as does Public Health Ontario."

See related: Health Unit sees 'glimmer of hope' in provincial reopening plan

And: Health Unit still prioritizing a return to classrooms

Dr. Carol Zimbalatti, a public health physician at the Health Unit, spoke on the subject of vaccine hesitancy during Thursday's weekly media availability, advising there is a segment of the population who may seek reassurance about vaccinations through consultation with their own personal physician.

"Some people need a familiar health care provider to really reassure them that the vaccine is right for them," Zimbalatti affirmed. "We are gradually onboarding more and more primary care offices to be able to facilitate that process."

The Health Unit encourages people to reach out to their trusted health care providers for guidance.

"Definitely, primary care offices have the information available to counsel their patients in the meantime and whether the vaccine is right for them — and for the majority of people, it would be right for them from a health standpoint," Zimbalatti added.

Individuals age 12–17 are now eligible to book first doses of Pfizer. Only Pfizer doses have been approved for the 12–17 age group by Health Canada. Although people in this age group can book spots in the mass immunization clinics for all eligible age groups, parents/guardians are encouraged to call the Health Unit on the morning of the appointment to ensure availability.

There will also be dedicated clinics across the district for this group for the weeks of June 14th and 21st. Recipients must have turned 12 by the day of immunization. These age 12–17 clinics will be listed on the provincial booking system and appointments will be available to be booked either online or through the call centre, according to McLellan.

For those ages 18 and over, the Health Unit says it is unable to confirm the product to be used at any clinic and reiterates the first dose offered should be accepted.

For COVID-19 vaccinations, the Health Unit has moved to the provincial phone booking system, open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at 1-833-943-3900. The public is still encouraged to book their COVID-19 vaccine appointment online at Ontario.ca/BookVaccine if they are able to do so, to help keep phone lines available for those who are unable to book online.

Individuals who have specific questions about the vaccine clinics in our area, do not have an Ontario Health Card, or have COVID-19-related questions, are still encouraged to call the Health Unit at 1-844-478-1400.

The Health Unit has also embarked on the One Step Closer campaign in an "effort to normalize the vaccine within our district," and combat vaccine hesitancy advised McLellan. "We have turned to everyday people to help share their stories about what getting the COVID-19 vaccination is bringing them 'One Step Closer' to."


Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for BayToday.ca, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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