A Letter from our Executive Director to the Provincial Government
COVID-19 Vaccine Role Out Should be Based on Needs vs Location
By Ron Coristine, Executive Director, Community Living Chatham-Kent
The COVID-19 vaccine is a key tool in our fight to contain this global pandemic. With numbers continuing to rise in communities across Ontario, it is critical that the most vulnerable people, and the staff who support them, are at the front of the line to receive the vaccine.
Sadly, this is not happening.
Despite the fact that Community Living Chatham-Kent provides essential support to several people who are highly vulnerable, neither these people, nor our staff, are scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccine in this first wave.
Why? Because the Ontario government is not allocating vaccines based on the needs of vulnerable populations but is making decisions based on institutional categories. This approach does not take into account the medical needs and risk factors of the persons supported by Community Living Chatham-Kent and other agencies.
For example, recent studies have shown that people who have Down Syndrome are at a greater risk of becoming severely ill if they contract COVID-19. They are ten times more likely to die and five times more likely to be hospitalized. You can see why it is so important they receive the vaccine in the first wave.
Yet despite the known risks for people who have Down Syndrome and people who have complex medical needs, unless they live in a long-term care home or hospital setting, they are not prioritized to receive the vaccine.
The consequences of not vaccinating these people in the first wave, and the staff who support them, could be unnecessary illness and even death for thousands of Ontarians, putting tremendous strain on the healthcare system. A strain that is easily avoided by providing early access to COVID-19 vaccines.
Despite the fact that several people who receive support could suffer severe health complications if they contracted COVID-19, they are not on the radar of the Ontario government as being a priority population.
At Community Living Chatham-Kent, we have made a commitment to keep these people safe in their community. The best way we can keep this commitment is to have the people and staff vaccinated, therefore, protecting them against COVID-19.
We are asking the Ontario government to do the right thing – include people who are highly vulnerable as well as the staff who support them, in the first wave of vaccinations, regardless of the setting in which they live or work.
This means moving from prioritizing institutions to identifying high-risk sub groups when determining the vaccine rollout.
By doing so, the government will help protect these people who are vulnerable and ensure we can continue to support them in community versus in the hospital.