Region’s vaccine rollout a bumpy road

By Mike Williscraft

Many are relieved to see vaccines going into arms and appointments being set as the battle against COVID-19 rages on.

While Niagara’s health department announced locations for vaccine clinics around the region last week, a couple of clinic locations have left some scratching their heads.

While Lincoln’s clinic will be at the Fleming Centre and West Lincoln’s will be at its community centre, Grimsby’s will be at the YMCA in the east end of town.

Reg. Coun. Wayne Fertich tried repeatedly to get some details from Niagara’s medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, but information was at a premium.

Of concern to Fertich is the use of a facility not central to the community and the reasons for which he was told the decision was made.
Fertich maintains either the Peach King Centre or Grimsby Activity Centre would have been far more suitable locations, central, lots of parking.

“The YMCA is at the most eastern part of Grimsby and completely out the convenient part of Grimsby. This selection is extremely POOR and should not have been even considered,” Fertich wrote to Hirji in an email before the clinic locations were publicly announced.

Fertich said in an interview that the PKC was the recommendation which the Town put forward.

However, at some point, Hirji received different information than was provided to either Fertich or Mayor Jeff Jordan.

“Selection of vaccination sites has been based on many criteria which includes accessibility, but also the size of clinic we can offer (larger clinic means more people can get vaccinated more quickly), parking availability, and HVAC system (we need to carefully control temperature and humidity within narrow bands or the vaccine will become spoiled),” noted Hirji in an email to Fertich, adding his department worked with the Town’s Emergency Management Committee to arrive at a decision.

However, Jordan, who chairs the committee, said the matter did not come up there.

Further, Hirji provided information which was used to form a decision which was wholly erroneous, noted Fertich.

While capacity was an issue, Hirji noted, “As well, since the Activity Centre does not have a dedicated parking lot but shares it with other businesses, we cannot guarantee sufficient parking that we would need for the many residents who would come for vaccinations, as well as the large number of staff we would need to operate a clinic efficiently.”

In fact, the activity centre does have 70 dedicated parking spots.

At PKC, Hirji listed issues with capacity, as well as temperature and humidity control as reasons it was not suitable.

“On balance, the YMCA offers the best option to deliver the maximum number of vaccinations to the residents of Grimsby. Our analysis is that the vast majority of Grimsby residents live within 15 minutes of the YMCA and getting to the clinic should no be a significant challenge,” wrote Hirji.

Fertich asked Hirji to clarify some of the information he provided including what the planned capacity – the number of vaccine stations – is planned, as well as who provided the incorrect information. No further information was provided by Hirji.

Fertich noted a series of details which make the activity centre a better option to no avail.

“I don’t believe your Emergency Committee has made the right decision for the residents of Grimsby,” wrote Fertich.

“You must reconsider the other options because I think you have been led down the wrong path…I also don’t believe that the Grimsby Emergency Committee agreed to the YMCA.”

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