Gates calls on premier to include Niagara’s ‘urgent priorities’ in budget

Wayne Gates St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens and Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates. BOB TYMCZYSZYN / TORSTAR FILE PHOTO

St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens and Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates have issued a letter to Ontario chief medical officer Dr. David Williams, calling on Niagara to be immediately included in the pharmacies vaccination rollout.

“We have many senior areas in the community, and that includes areas that are often composed of over 50 per cent senior residents — if there is a place that needs to protect those residents who built this province, it is Niagara,” the recent letter said.

Pharmacies in three public health units, Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington; Toronto and Windsor-Essex County, have been booking appointments for the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines since a pilot project began earlier this month.

Gates and Stevens said despite Niagara Region Public Health and Niagara Health success in quickly vaccinating some of the most vulnerable residents here, it “remains difficult to vaccinate those under the age of 80 with the allotment of vaccines made available to us.”

“Recognizing the unique concentration of a senior population in Niagara, we are asking for you to immediately act and provide additional specific vaccine relief for Niagara and include our local pharmacies in the provincial pilot program immediately,” said the New Democrat MPPs in their letter.

“We have asked our pharmacies in Niagara and it is not only clear that they have capacity, but that they are eager to start putting vaccines in the arms of their elderly residents due to the high demand.

“For example, Simpson’s Pharmacy, an incredible local community partner, has told us they have the capacity to immediately help in the fight against this virus — already they have a wait list that exceeds 3,500 seniors waiting for government approval.”

The MPPs said it is urgent to ensure we have a vaccination rollout strategy that includes pharmacies in Niagara to keep pace with other younger populations across the province.

“You must act now and include Niagara pharmacies being brought on board with the provincial pharmacy pilot and expand delivery channels in our region. We will work with you to whatever degree you need to make this request a reality,” they said.

Sean Vanderklis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the Niagara Falls Review, covering education issues across Niagara. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.