London

COVID-19 vaccine clinic coming to LHSC's Western Fair field hospital

The largest hospital in southwestern Ontario is among 17 hospitals across Ontario that have been selected by the province to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine over the next two weeks.

Ontario to receive 90,000 doses by year's end to continue to vaccinate healthcare workers

The Western Fair Agriplex will become a field hospital for COVID-19 patients in coming days. (Andrew Lupton/CBC News)

London Health Sciences Centre is among 17 Ontario hospitals that will receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, the province announced Friday.  

In a memo sent to staff, LHSC CEO Dr. Paul Woods said the vaccine clinic will be based at the Western Fair Agriplex, a location the hospital transformed into a field hospital in April but has, until now, remained empty. 

Woods wrote he expects "a very small number of doses to arrive in London next week." 

He said he expects the first doses to be administered to healthcare workers employed in long-term care homes.

"The province is focused on providing vaccines to the most vulnerable populations - which were identified and recommended by medical experts and the provincial COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force - followed by immunization for the broader population," Wood wrote.  

Dr. Chris Mackie, the Middlesex-London Health Unit's medical officer of health, said the vaccine's arrival in London is an important step forward. 

"This is a really exciting time," he said. "It will be small numbers of people, primarily health care workers at first. But we know the vaccine is starting to roll in and hopefully we'll have lots for everyone soon."

When asked how much vaccine London will receive and when, Mackie referred those questions to Ontario's health ministry. 

Mackie said for now, all vaccinations will happen at the Agriplex because the vaccine doses need to be stored in ultra-cold freezers capable of maintaining temperatures at -70C. 

"If the vaccine is moved around too much, it can lose its potency," said Mackie. "The Pfizer company has directed that once it's delivered to one location in the region, it cannot be moved."

Mackie also said the OPP is working with the health unit and LHSC regarding security for the site.

Earlier this week, an LHSC spokesperson said the hospital's lease at the Agriplex had been extended until March. 

Woods said each person receiving a vaccine will go through a consent process, as with any vaccine. Since Pfizer's requires a second dose, recipients will be registered with a provincial database and will be required to return after 21 days. 

Mackie asked that people who are weary after months of restrictions and wondering when it's their turn to get the vaccine to remain patient.

"Of course we would like more vaccine to come sooner," he said. "It has been prioritized to try and protect the people who are at greatest risk. As soon as it's available to the broader public, we will make sure that they get it as quickly as possible."

Mackie said the vaccine's arrival doesn't mean people can stop physical distancing, limiting personal contacts wearing masks and other safety measures. 

"The vaccine takes at least two weeks to have its full effect," he said. "It requires a booster dose about three weeks after the first dose and we can't have those public measures falling apart across the community for others. It's so crucial that people continue to keep those measures in place."

Other hospital locations

The province said Friday LHSC and the 16 other sites selected to administer the vaccine are equipped with freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine at the required -70C. 

Toronto's University Health Network and The Ottawa Hospital were the first to open clinics on Dec. 14 and have so far, administered over 2,300 doses since starting their vaccine clinics earlier in December. 

Other sites that will begin vaccine clinics are:

  • Windsor Regional Hospital
  • London Health Sciences Centre
  • Grand River Hospital
  • Halton Healthcare
  • Hamilton Health Sciences
  • William Osler Health System
  • Trillium Health Partners
  • Southlake Regional Health Centre
  • Mackenzie Health
  • Humber River Hospital
  • Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
  • Toronto East Health Network
  • Unity Health Toronto
  • Scarborough Health Network
  • Lakeridge Health
  • Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre
  • Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre

"Following a successful pilot, we are excited to continue onto the next stage of our rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines to Ontarians," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.

"While we are planning to ensure that everyone who wants a vaccine will receive one, we need to first protect our frontline workers and those providing essential care to our most vulnerable," she said. 

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