COVID-19 vaccine expected to arrive in Waterloo region Dec. 23

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in Waterloo region on Dec. 23. There will be a clinic at Grand River Hospital for specific individuals, and it's by appointment only.

Vaccine could arrive on Dec. 23 at Grand River Hospital

Sherry Plett, a registered nurse in Manitoba, receives her first COVID-19 inoculation from Danielle Kim, public health nurse, in the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Officials say first doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in Waterloo region on Dec. 23. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to arrive in Waterloo region next week.

During a media briefing Friday morning, Waterloo Regional Police Service deputy chief Shirley Hilton, who is heading the region's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, said the vaccine is expected to arrive on Dec. 23.

If they arrive early enough in the day, the first vaccines will be administered that day. If they come later in the day, the first shot will be on Dec. 24, Hilton said.

"The first doses will be given to staff at long term care facilities and hospitals. These will be done by appointment only," Hilton said. "We encourage members of the public to not call local pharmacies or their doctors to book an appointment for the vaccine."

A release from the region noted long term care homes will be prioritized based on size, density and physical layout of the home. As well, homes currently in outbreak cannot have staff vaccinated until the outbreak is over.

Hilton said the vaccine is not expected to be available to the general public until the middle or later part of 2021.

Grand River Hospital has been tapped by the province as one of 17 new sites that will receive the vaccine. The hospital will set up a clinic for people who are eligible to get the early doses.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said all of the sites already have the equipment necessary to safely store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at -70 C and the required staff are ready to receive and administer vaccines.

This is considered still part of phase one of the province's phased rollout of the vaccine. The province says it is expecting to receive up to 90,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses from the federal government before the end of the year.

Hilton said it's unclear yet how many doses the region will get right away.

Hilton asked people for patience. 

"Although a vaccine is an important step toward recovery, safe distribution to the general public will take time," she said.