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About 700 doses of COVID vaccine given in Collingwood this week

The drive-thru clinic is capable of much more, the limiting factor is the vaccine supply
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Collingwood and Wasaga Beach COVID-19 Assessment Centres are drive-thru and by appointment only. Contributed photo

By end of day tomorrow, Collingwood’s drive-thru COVID-19 vaccination clinic will have given about 700 doses of vaccine to area residents. 

The first 222 of those were given during a snowstorm. 

The local clinic, which already operates as a COVID-19 assessment site, started administering vaccines on Monday, March 1 in blizzard conditions. 

Run by the Georgian Bay Family Health Team with support from the health unit, the site is set up for people to remain in their vehicles for their test, and the same system is applied to vaccination. 

Marie LaRose, executive director of the family health team, said they are scheduling staffing and appointments based on vaccine allotments. This week the Collingwood Legion site was used for vaccinations on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Next week, the Wasaga Beach RecPlex site will be administering vaccines three days of the week. 

The vaccine shortage is preventing the clinics from operating at their full potential. 

“That’s obviously super frustrating,” said LaRose. "Mostly because of patient perspective … they’re so keen to get it.” 

She said the clinics could operate seven days a week with extended hours into the night. Both sites could be vaccinating at the same time, and they could accommodate five lanes of drive-thru. 

“We could really do whatever they can throw at us,” said LaRose. “We’ve got the people to do the work, the places to do the work, we can extend the hours … it’s just a case of getting the actual product – the vaccine.” 

She is excited to see vaccinations starting locally and looks forward to the day they can offer more to more people. 

Because of the drive-thru set up, she said the vaccination process is over in minutes and then each patient must wait in their car in the parking lot for fifteen minutes. 

The clinics are also prepared with plans should there be leftover vaccines at the end of the day whether because of cancelled appointments or miscalculations. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in use in Simcoe Muskoka has strict storage requirements, and cannot be put back once thawed. 

LaRose said the clinics keep waiting lists of people who have said they can come to the clinic with 30 minutes notice to receive a dose. As the family health team, they also have electronic medical records and can reach out to eligible populations to see if they can (and want to) come for a last-minute appointment.

“We will not waste any vaccine,” said LaRose. 

Since vaccinations will be administered at the Wasaga clinic next week, the Collingwood clinic will be back to operating as a COVID test site by appointment. You can book a testing appointment via the family health team website. You cannot book vaccine appointments there, those must be done through the health unit right now.

Currently, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit states vaccination appointments and the waiting list are full. 

If you are on the waiting list, you will be called about an available appointment. The caller will not ask for your social insurance number or banking information, they will ask you to confirm your date of birth. 

The province will also be launching its online booking system on March 15. Further information on how to access the system is not available yet. 

You can visit the health unit website here for ongoing updates on the availability of appointments and eligibility criteria.