WECHU says people experiencing homelessness to receive COVID-19 vaccines

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is in conversation with the province and is working on a process to get the population their COVID-19 shots.

Dr. Wajid Ahmed said details being worked out but vaccines could start this week

There are 115 COVID-19 cases connected to outbreaks at two shelters as of Wednesday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Public health officials in Windsor-Essex are working on a plan to soon vaccinate people experiencing homelessness, the region's medical officer of health said Monday. 

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is in conversation with the province and is working on a process to get the population their COVID-19 shots.

"We hope to start vaccination later this week for that population group,"  Dr. Wajid Ahmed said at a media briefing on Monday.

The rollout will come amid two COVID-19 outbreaks at two shelters, the Downtown Mission and the Salvation Army, that were declared several weeks ago. There were 115 cases associated with the outbreaks as of last week. The City of Windsor opened up an emergency shelter on Thursday to house those affected.

People experiencing homelessness were not initially included in the first phase of Ontario's vaccination plan, which aims to prioritize those most vulnerable to the virus while supplies are extremely limited.

Officials with the City of Toronto, which recently announced plans to vaccinate its homeless population, said the province has modified the framework so that people who are without housing can be vaccinated under Phase 1.

Vaccine clinic opens up

WECHU opened its vaccination clinic for seniors 80 and older on Monday morning.

According to CEO Theresa Marenette, 11,300 eligible people have signed up to receive their shots so far, and about 148 appointments are scheduled for Monday.

"It's pretty amazing to see our over 80-plus seniors coming into the centre," she said, adding that many would have been home for most of the pandemic.

Those who got appointments were selected randomly and contacted by the health unit.

Some couldn't believe they had been picked, Marenette said.

"[Staff] said that some people did cry on the phone," she said. "They were really excited."

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