Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)

Vaccine rollout is focused on health care workers first, especially those dealing with long-term care facilities. (Nathan Denette - Canadian Press)

General public shouldn’t expect vaccines until fall: Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen

Interior Health focused on vaccinating long-term and first-line care workers

Don’t expect to receive a vaccine soon, the focus right now is on doctors, seniors and others most at risk.

During a budget presentation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Hospital District, Interior Health South Okanagan Similkameen executive director of clinical operations Carl Meadows took the opportunity to speak to the board on the ongoing pandemic and vaccine roll-out.

“Our COVID-19 numbers in the community are dropping, but we have had some significant events in places that have been made public,” said Meadows. “It has been a very long few months.”

Vaccines are focused first and foremost on long-term care and assisted living citizens and staff.

The priority from there then goes to COVID-19 unit staff, ICU staff, emergency staff and then physicians and staff that work in any of those areas.

“We tailored it to level of risk, and that’s how we’re doing our implementation,” said Meadows. “It’s probably going to be fall, that the general public gets access to it.”

READ MORE: No funding for Primary Care Networks from South Okanagan Similkameen Hospital District

Separate from the vaccine roll-out, which is facing its own difficulties on a national level due to the availability of the vaccine, the dropping numbers are a promising sign, as long as they continue that way.

“We did a great job. Our first COVID patient wasn’t even allowed out of their car, they had been travelling and our team caught it quickly,” said Meadows. “We’re still cautiously optimistic. Our numbers in Penticton and the South Okanagan are going down, but our testing numbers are also down.”

Meadows noted that communities had faced challenges, including the McKinney Place long-term care facility outbreak in Oliver. A review of the outbreak, and lessons from that, has been requested by Meadows, and how to go forward with other four-bed long-term care facilities.

READ MORE: Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

READ MORE: South Okanagan COVID-19 numbers continue downward trend

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