Vaccination supply, rollout slowing in Windsor-Essex

As the third wave of COVID-19 ramps up across the province — including an increase in cases here in Windsor-Essex — the region has seen vaccine the pace of vaccinations go down.

About 7,700 fewer people received first doses in early April compared with late March

More than 25 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents have been innoculated with one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, but recent data shows that fewer people are being vaccinated this month than in late March. (Submitted by Michelle James)

As the third wave of COVID-19 ramps up across the province — including an increase in cases here in Windsor-Essex — the region has seen the pace of vaccinations go down.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit CEO Theresa Marentette said that about a month ago, the health unit was getting about 14,000 shots of the Pfizer-BioNech vaccine weekly, but the current allotment is around 10,500 doses.

The region also gets 2,000 to 3,000 doses of the shot made by Moderna, as well as supplies of the Astrazeneca-Oxford vaccine.

The health unit's data shows that vaccination rates have slowed.

Daily vaccination numbers peaked a few times in mid-March, after vaccines were made available in pharmacies, with over 4,000 first doses administered daily.

During the last 14 days of March, 38,493 people received first doses. For the first 14 days of April, 30,760 people received a shot. One caveat, however, is that by April a greater proportion of people within the eligible age groups would have already received their first dose.

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit's website shows how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given over time. (WECHU)

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens spoke out about the vaccine supply issue on Thursday, expressing concern that amid a third wave of the pandemic and a provincial shutdown, the region is actually doing less vaccination than before.

"And so when people say it's a race between the vaccine and the variant, guess who's gonna win if we're doing vaccination? The variant," Dilkens said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Thursday.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens discusses what he learned from a real estate round table with Windsor Morning host Tony Doucette. He also raises concerns about the volume of vaccines available in Windsor-Essex and wants higher levels of government to increase the supply. 13:08

He pointed out that the health unit has had to reduce clinic hours, closing the WFCU Centre vaccination site on weekends due to supply. 

'Almost impossible'

Local health officials have repeatedly stressed that vaccine supply remains a challenge.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed acknowledged the difficulty of managing that supply as the list of who qualifies for the vaccine expands.

"At this time, it's almost impossible even to allocate the vaccine that we are receiving in meeting all these priorities that are given to us by the province," he said earlier this week.

On Friday, Ahmed said that the health unit wants to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, and said that the supply issues are not isolated to Windsor but are being felt elsewhere in the province and the country.

"This is a provincial issue, this is a federal issue, and we hope that in the coming weeks and months we'll be in a better position," he said.

Marentette acknowledged that the rate of vaccinations has been higher than it currently is, but characterized it as an acceleration due to the region's selection for various provincial initiatives aimed at targeting areas of the province with high COVID-19 rates.

"Because of our participation in pilot projects, we did proceed a little bit further ahead," Marentette said at the health unit's daily briefing on Thursday.

"I think there's just ... trying to acknowledge there are many needs across all of the health units, and the ministry (of health) is doing their best with all of the allocations."

25.6% vaccinated

Vaccination stats also show that Windsor-Essex remains ahead of the game in the rollout, at least relative to other jurisdictions.

Over a quarter of all Windsor-Essex residents — 25.6 per cent — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

That's significantly above the provincial average of 14.7 per cent and the national average of 15.2, Health Canada statistics show.

So, how did the region get there? Windsor-Essex was among the first to introduce vaccinations in long-term care and retirement homes in January.

The region has also seen an influx of vaccines from the provincial vaccine pilot project. Around 25,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine were allotted to Windsor-Essex through that initiative, and pharmacies are expected to receive additional doses on top of that.

In addition to the pharmacy rollout, the region is also one of 13 provincial health units that the province said would share in 920,000 extra doses of vaccine.

More people are eligible for vaccines as well. Seven "hot spot" postal codes within those 13 regions are in Windsor-Essex. Residents older than 50 can make vaccine appointments, as opposed to 60 and up elsewhere.

'The ball has been dropped'

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens is blaming the federal government for not delivering more vaccine. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke)

Dilkens said the issue lies with the federal government, not the province or the local health unit, whom he says are working to quickly distribute any supplies received.

"From a federal perspective, I'm extremely disappointed because we just need more supply and the ball has been dropped," he said.

He also took issue with what he called "finger pointing" from Ottawa to the province over where the bottleneck is occurring.

A spokesperson for Anita Anand, the federal minister responsible for procurement, did not directly address Dilkens' comments but noted that Ottawa has exceeded its targets for vaccine procurement, with 22 million doses moved up to earlier quarters than originally planned.

The country remains on target to have enough doses for everyone by September or earlier, the statement said.

With files from Windsor Morning