Vaccination of older adults expected to expand next month

Public health officials in Ottawa say residents over 80 who live on their own should begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early March.

Survey of seniors suggest high interest in receiving the vaccine

Nicole Laplante, centre, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at the St. Jacques Nursing Home in Embrun, Ont., in January. Ontario residents over 80 who don't live in group home settings could be offered a vaccine within weeks, public health officials say. (Submitted by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit)

Public health officials in Ottawa say residents over 80 who live on their own should begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in early March.

On Sunday, the province announced seniors who aren't in long-term care or other retirement home settings will now be included as part of the initial priority group for immunization. 

Community organizations that serve seniors in Ottawa have been told that could happen within weeks.

"This is excellent news given older adults are at greater risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection," according to a memo from the city's Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), the team responsible for planning the local vaccine rollout, in a memo to the mayor and council. 

But the memo also includes a caveat about the current supply.

"It is important to note that current vaccine supply does not allow for the immediate vaccination of older adults."

94% want vaccine: Survey

Agencies that work with older adults are surveying their clients over 65 to find out how many are interested in receiving the vaccine. This Friday, those organizations will send the results to Ottawa Public Health to inform rollout plans.

Abbotsford House, which offers support services to seniors operated by Glebe Centre, has received back 400 out of 1,000 surveys, and has found 94 per cent of those respondents want the vaccine. 

"So overwhelmingly, we do note that the older adults that we're serving would like to have the vaccine," explained Karen Anne Blakely, the director of community programs at Glebe Centre. 

She said the organization will also help seniors get to their vaccine appointments by providing transportation if necessary. It's also surveying volunteers who deliver services to seniors to assess whether they too should be included in the group targeted for vaccination.

Vaccine offers hope

Shirley Allen, 96, responded to the survey to say she wanted the vaccine. Allen has been living in her current home for some forty years and would like to remain independent.

"It would make me feel protected," said Allen, adding that the vaccine has boosted spirits and "offers some hope that we will conquer this."

Mary Lou Byron, 80, said she was also happy to hear that she could receive the first dose early next month.

"Everybody that I associate with seem to want it and they're anxious to have it," she said. 

But Byron has some concern about the many seniors who may not have been able to respond to the survey or know it's available to them because they don't have access to the internet. 

Blakely said they're also thinking about the 600 people who didn't answer the survey. She said the centre will reach out by phone to connect with those who are not using computers.  

"It's just we need to find ways to get the information to them," she said.


  • A previous version of this story had the incorrect name for the Glebe Centre.
    Feb 17, 2021 10:34 AM ET

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