Niagara’s municipal leaders call for increased municipal role in vaccine rollout

Niagara’s mayors and the Regional Chair say the Region is at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic and they are calling on the provincial government to increase the role of municipalities in vaccine distribution.

They also say that paramedics should be prioritized for access to vaccines.

“With the significant increase of COVID-19 cases, an alarming rise in the number of pandemic-related deaths, and the continued impact of outbreaks in more than 50 per cent of Niagara’s long-term care homes, the consensus of the heads of the council was that Niagara is at a critical point,” said a news release the Region issued Friday.

The release went on to say: “A concerted effort will be required by all partners to help gain control of an exceptionally serious situation.”

Lincoln mayor Sandra Easton is also a signatory to the joint statement. She called the situation “precarious” adding, “COVID cases continue to rise and unfortunately, that means more people are dying. I’m calling on everyone to remain vigilant, adhere to public health guidelines and stay home unless necessary, wear a mask when out, and only interact with members of your own household. I am confident we can get through this together.”

Mike Kirkopoulos, Chief Administrative Officer at the Town of Lincoln, also commented on the joint official statement: “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on Niagara families and businesses. I join our elected officials in being very concerned with the data showing us we are not out of the woods yet.”

“Unfortunately more people are getting sick and our most vulnerable continue to die. That is why our Mayor and her Regional colleagues issued a joint media release detailing actions that we are taking to get this situation under control. Some of this is through additional enhanced measures at long-term care facilities, but also making sure communication about vaccine distribution is given to the public in a timely manner.”

He said he is hopeful the vaccine rollout continues and that Niagara’s supply continues to increase quickly.  “We have significant cases and the seriousness of what we are seeing in LTC homes and our hospitals requires attention.”

He added: “We are at a crossroads here, if we do not follow public health advice about staying home unless for essentials, wearing a mask, physically distancing from others outside of our own house, then I fear this situation may continue to get worse. I hope I am wrong. The numbers we saw from the province today showed that we are on the precipice of a major outbreak, but with proper adherence, we can avoid unnecessary illness.”

The Chair and mayors have agreed on the following principles:

  1. Niagara’s municipal partners are exploring opportunities to share staff resources in all appropriate areas to further bolster Niagara’s pandemic response, including possible redeployment to long-term care homes and to support public health initiatives.
  2. Niagara’s municipal leaders call on the province to ensure our frontline health care workers and residents have equal and timely access to vaccines as compared to other areas of Ontario.
  3. Niagara urges the province to consider increasing the role of municipalities and local Public Health units in the vaccine distribution strategy. Niagara also calls upon the province to more openly share its plans regarding vaccine distribution to ensure local residents have the information they require.
  4. Paramedics across the province should be added to the list of priority healthcare staff to receive the vaccination.
  5. Niagara’s municipalities will reaffirm their commitment to sharing information in a timely and accurate way to ensure all parties can make effective decisions.
  6. Niagara’s municipal leaders request the community’s patience and understanding as vaccines begin to arrive across the Region. The federal and provincial government have committed to ensuring there will be a vaccine for everyone who wants one, but this process will take

It said a formal letter was also sent to Premier of Ontario Doug Ford, the Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones outlining Niagara’s concerns.