Eastern Ontario Health Unit blames Ontario for piling on vax eligibility it can’t fill

Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – The Eastern Ontario Health Unit’s medical officer of health blames the Ontario Ministry of Health for the problems residents found Monday with no appointments available locally during the latest round of second dose eligibility.

The provincial portal opened at 8 a.m. to those 70 years old and older and those who received their first dose on or before April 18. The health unit says there were about 8,000 appointments available of the 43,000 spots it had enough vaccine for, which were quickly exhausted within a few hours. This led to a number of public complaints.

“We anticipated this would happen, we told the ministry this would happen but they wanted to go ahead because they wanted to start that ball rolling for at least getting the second dose mindset going,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis told Cornwall Newswatch Monday afternoon.

With the provincial window now open, Roumeliotis was asked how people are going to know when Cornwall and SD&G appointments are available.

The doctor says there are 110 clinics planned between now and the middle of August but he, again, pointed at the ministry for a lack of information sharing.

“We can tell people we’ve submitted the clinic but we don’t know when they’re going to go live (on the Ontario portal) and that’s our problem. So we’re telling people to check every couple of days,” Roumeliotis said. “I do understand it’s a bit frustrating but these are circumstances beyond our control.”

“When you’re told this and you have limited vaccine you’ve already booked for a three to four week period, and you get these extra things (extra eligibility windows). It always happens. They kind of tell us last minute. We haven’t even had a chance to add those clinics, so, but that’s how they work,” Roumeliotis said.

In hindsight, Roumeliotis says they could have communicated better by telling people through social media or the media there were no appointments available as of noon Monday. “I wanted to find out what the issue was and just found out now (4:15 p.m. Monday). Moving forward, I’d like to be proactive about it. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a glitch in the system versus we’d run out of places.”

The doctor is trying to reassure the public. “Please be patient. Please don’t worry. You will be getting and second dose. I and our health unit staff wants nothing more that to vaccinate your second dose as quickly as possible.”

For those really antsy about waiting, Roumeliotis suggests calling your doctor or one of the 40 local drug stores giving shots. Drug stores are receiving about 4,000 doses weekly – half Pfizer, half Moderna.

Cornwall Newswatch has called the Ministry of Health for comment but have not heard back.