A motion designed to help communities such as North Bay catch up to larger centres in the vaccine roll-out process gained unanimous support by North Bay City Council at its regular meeting, Tuesday.
See original story: Vrebosch motion seeks vaccine equity in the north
Before the vote, the motion was amended by the mover, Deputy Mayor Tanya Vrebosch, to send a copy to members of the federal government and health agencies alongside their provincial counterparts.
"We have a right to these vaccines, we don't have a right to be treated as second-class citizens," stated Coun. Bill Vrebosch, who was the seconder. "This motion, people might say it's redundant, that basically it's moving ahead now, the vaccines are coming here. I think it's very important this motion goes ahead to let them know we're very concerned about being behind the rest of the province when it comes to vaccinations."
According to the resolution, the City of North Bay requests vaccine allocation to public health unit regions that are still in phase 1 of the roll-out be prioritized by diverting unused vaccines from larger districts to underserved communities.
'We're not saying take it away from hot spots," said Tanya Vrebosch. "If you get your weekly vaccine allotment and you can't use it, it should be shipped to communities that do have the capacity to put more needles in arms — and we do have that capacity," a notion she said was confirmed by district Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jim Chirico.
Bill Vrebosch noted the age group receiving vaccinations in the local health unit district is much older than in other centres.
"It's total confusion. In Peel, you can see 100,000 people didn't show up for their shots," he said. "The sniping back and forth between the federal and provincial members is just a waste of our time. Get the vaccines up here, we'll take the extra ones."
He added, "We have a right to them. If you can't use them, send them here, we'll look after them for you. We can get them in the arms."
"Communication is one of the biggest things," Tanya Vrebosch told Council members. "Even if they don't give us more vaccines, they do need to change the communication plan. They keep announcing that they are moving ahead, that more categories are opening up — we're still behind. We're still doing 70-plus. Other communities, if you look at Toronto, are doing 60-plus."
She added the pharmacy roll-out could also have been better communicated as many local pharmacies were unaware of the move and suggested a communication plan tailored to health units still in phase 1 would be helpful.
As of Tuesday, the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit reported 21,925 or 20.2 per cent of the district population 18 and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, 1,746 or 1.6 per cent of the population have received two doses. Provincial and national government vaccination data can be found here for Ontario and here for Canada.
Deputy Mayor Vrebosch acknowledged the local medical officer of health has been advocating for increased vaccine supply, as have district municipalities.
"This takes it to the next step. We're just being more vocal about it because we're not seeing that movement."
She noted as much of the province is in phase 2, it's as though some health units — including the local one — have "just left the start line while others are getting closer to the finish line. It's disheartening that communities further ahead can't even fill their time slots."