Lambton may have among the highest rates of COVID-19 per capita but the province says it’s not a hot spot

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Heather Wright Photo Joan D’Hooghe, 90, of Wyoming received her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine March 8. Public Health is limiting the number of clinics right now because of a lack of vaccine.

Vaccine clinics limited because of lack of supply

Lambton’s medical officer of health can’t explain why the region was left off the province’s hot spots.

When Premier Doug Ford announced the Stay-At-Home order Wednesday, he said a number of communities where the rates of COVID-19 were high, would get priority for vaccines with people as young as 18 getting a jab. There would also be mobile clinics going to neighbours in hot zones and large workplaces. The system is set up by postal codes.

Lambton has had some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the province. In March, only Peel had a higher rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Right now, it sits at 102 cases per 100,000. About 2.4 per cent of the COVID-19 cases are coming back positive.

Peel, York and Toronto continue to have the most cases of COVID-19. The University of Toronto says 18 public health units have a high risk of spreading COVID-19 – Lambton is among those, although it is one of three health unit where the number of cases per capita is decreasing.

But Lambton was not on the hot spot list and won’t receive any extra vaccines.

Dr. Sudit Ranade says he can’t explain why.”They use some kind of assessment process that involves lots of different considerations. So, it’s not just cases, but also volume of outbreaks, burden of ICU, various other things to decide on what constituted hot spots,” Ranade told reporters Thursday.

“It’s fairly easy to argue that Lambton County overall is a hot spot when we looked at the most recent case data, you know, we’re above the Ontario average. And we were basically, you know, after your GTA areas, Peel, Toronto, there was Lambton.

“If you sort that by specific postal code, you may not get hot spots that way. But overall, as a region, I would certainly say that there’s a reason why we would be asking for more vaccines.”

Not only is Lambton left out of the group getting more supply of the vaccine, Ranade says Lambton is now in a vaccine crunch. Public health officials are limiting the number of clinics to be held because there isn’t enough coming to the region to meet the demand.

Ranade told county councillors yesterday the county would only receive about 2,500 to 2,800 vaccines in the next week. Yesterday, when the province opened up registration for anyone over 60, Lambton had 5,000 people book appointments in one day.

The medical officer of health says Lambton officials are working together to make their case to the province to get more vaccines to the region.

“We’re gonna try to make that case based on our numbers,” says Ranade.

“The county has some mechanisms of advocacy that are both formal and informal. And I think we’ll try to pursue all of those avenues and see what we can do.

“I don’t think there are any guarantees around this … so if we get some more vaccines we will absolutely be happy to take it and use it.”

But will the plea work? “I suspect that they (provincial officials) have a lot of additional considerations. I think it’s important to make the ask and we’ll do that, but it’s hard to guarantee where it would go.”