KITCHENER -- COVID-19 vaccines are ramping across Ontario and Waterloo Region.

RAMPING UP VACCINES DUE TO DELTA VARIANT CONCERNS

Waterloo Region was identified as a Delta variant hot spot by the province on June 10.

Regional officials said more vaccines will be allocated to the area in the coming weeks as the region deals with community spread of the variant.

Anyone who received a first dose on or before May 9 can book an accelerated second dose now and that eligibility expands to anyone vaccinated before May 30 starting on June 23.

The vaccine task force said they hope to launch self-booking software early next week.

Waterloo Region residents can receive a second dose at a clinic, pharmacy or primary care setting, regardless of where they received their first dose.

Plans are in the works for mobile clinics in the region in the coming days. Officials said they've also expanded capacity at the Cambridge Pine Bush clinic to administer 1,000 more doses a day.

They are also working on a plan to offer "doses after dark" through evening appointments at that clinic.

Residents are also encouraged to take whichever mRNA vaccine is available to them at the time of their appointment, regardless of whether it is Pfizer or Moderna.

National officials are now recommending people who received AstraZeneca as a first dose get an mRNA vaccine for their second dose. The window between first and second doses was shortened to eight weeks.

Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in Waterloo Region, including locations, how to register, and who is next in line.

WHO CAN GET VACCINATED RIGHT NOW?

The province has ramped up second dose administration due to a spike in Delta variant cases in Waterloo Region. Anyone who received an mRNA vaccine before May 9 can now book an accelerated second dose. That will expand to anyone vaccinated on or before May 30 starting on June 23.

As of May 11, everyone aged 12 and older in Waterloo Region can pre-register for a vaccine appointment.

Starting May 28, people between the ages of 12 and 17 will be sent invitations to book a COVID-19 appointment. They will also be able to book appointments for people 12 and older living in their household.

The province released an updated list of pharmacies offering Pfizer and Moderna vaccines on May 14. Appointments are available to people 18 and older for Moderna and 12 and older for Pfizer. A full list of local pharmacies is available here.

WHO IS NEXT IN LINE?

Pre-registration is open to everyone 12 and older in Waterloo Region as of May 11.

Regional officials said appointments will be available within four to six weeks, and will be offered based on eligibility.

HOW WILL I FIND OUT WHEN I CAN RECEIVE THE VACCINE?

Waterloo Region's vaccination task force will share more information as it becomes available. Primarily, the task force will communicate vaccine updates through:

  • Social media and its website
  • Media outlets like CTV Kitchener
  • Community partners like pharmacists

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WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

The province opened its COVID-19 vaccination registration system on March 15, but Waterloo Region said it will continue to use its own pre-registration system for now.

Anyone who has pre-registered will be contacted when an appointment is available.

Libraries in Waterloo Region are helping people over 80 book appointments over the phone.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE REGISTERING?

The COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary but strongly recommended.

You can't get COVID-19 from the vaccine—none of the vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada use the live virus which causes the disease.

Side effects for the vaccine are likely to be moderate and resolve in a few days. Those include pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint paint, chills or fever.

In rare cases, people have had allergic reactions to the vaccination. These can be treated and are usually temporary.

Once Canada starts using a vaccine, the country monitors its use to alert public health officials about any unusual adverse events that weren't previously reported.

WHO HAS ALREADY RECEIVED THE VACCINE?

As of June 18, regional officials said more than 73 per cent of the eligible population had received their first dose of a vaccine.

Nearly 75,000 people have been fully vaccinated, meaning they have received both doses and are considered immunized.

The provincial target for successful immunization coverage is 75 per cent.

WHERE ARE THE VACCINES BEING DISTRIBUTED?

The region will offer vaccines through five different types of clinics: the hospital and mobile clinics, large public health and primary care clinics, and finally through retail pharmacies.

There are clinics located at 435 The Boardwalk in Waterloo, Langs Community Centre in Cambridge, Kitchener's Health Science Campus at 10 Victoria St. South and a clinic in Wellesley Township at 3710 Nafziger Dr.

A clinic opened at the old RONA location at 66 Pinebush Rd. in Cambridge on March 22.

Mobile teams continue to administer vaccines to seniors living in congregate care settings.

WHEN DO I GET MY SECOND DOSE?

Ontario announced plans on May 28 to shorten the interval between first and second doses.

As of May 31, residents 80 and older in Waterloo Region can request an earlier second dose appointment. It can take two to four weeks to be contacted about an earlier timeslot.

On May 14, regional officials said highest-risk health-care workers are eligible for a shortened interval between doses. A full list is available here.

People between 12 and 17 years old will also be eligible for a shortened second-dose interval in an effort to have students fully vaccinated before they return to school in September.

On June 3, the province said people who received a first dose of AstraZeneca can choose to receive a second dose of AstraZeneca or an mRNA vaccine.

Starting June 14,  people who received their first dose of Monderna or Pfizer before May 9 will be eligible to book an accelerated second dose due to concerns about the Delta variant.

Second dose intervals for people who received AstraZeneca for a first dose were shortened to eight weeks on June 14.

People can fill out a form on the region's website to ask for a sooner second dose appointment.

WHO DO I CONTACT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?

If you work or live in a long-term care or retirement home or a congregate living facility, public health officials recommend that you contact your facility directly.

Those who work at a hospital should ask their occupational health and safety advisor.