NORTH BAY -- Calling it a bittersweet victory, 22-year-old Tyler Richardson finally has a date for his COVID-19 vaccination. However, the family is forced to travel to Sudbury in order for Tyler to get one step closer to safety.

“We’d much rather stay in town,” said mom Cathy Sullivan-Richardson. “Our family physician who we have a great relationship with is very concerned about us travelling out of the region. He gets 100 per cent why we’re doing this, but it’s basically like please like ‘get in your van, get the shot and get home.’”

Searching for a solution for his son, who has cerebral palsy and a chronic lung disease, Greg Richardson called Public Health Sudbury & Districts to see if Tyler could get an appointment there, since the family has had no luck in the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit district.

“The lady that took the phone call was extremely kind, extremely compassionate, she wanted to hear the story,” said Richardson. “She actually felt so bad about the situation because this clientele in Sudbury was vaccinated with the 80 years old with the most vulnerable populations, as they should.”

By 9 p.m. that same day, the Richardsons had a date for not only Tyler, but for one essential caregiver, as well.

“I think, he tugged at her heartstrings,” said Sullivan-Richardson. “I think, we kind of said, we think she was a mom and she wanted to help.”

Although good news for Tyler and the Richardson family, they say the problem still hasn’t truly been addressed.

“If you look at the provincial guideline, if you look at the local health unit guideline, these people are clearly, clearly indicated as high-risk people and people that are in Phase 1,” said Richardson, noting that Phase 2 has already begun both locally and across Ontario.

“You know, I believe that for a person that has the power to close down schools and close down snowmobile trails and such in his area, I can’t see how he can’t allocate the next batch of vaccine to finish Phase 1,” he said.

Demand outstrips supply

The North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit said clinics are being planned, but the demand for vaccines outweighs local supply.

“We just must be patient,” said Dr. Jim Chirico, the medical officer of health during a media conference on Thursday. “We are inundated on a daily basis with requests from individuals, from groups, from families that they should be ahead of other people. We recognize that in many cases they have very legitimate reasons, but we have to follow an ethical framework that’s set out by the province and follow it in order and the demand is again, it certainly exceeds the supply we’re getting.”

He said the health unit is advocating for more vaccines in the district, but other places in the province are in more dire need.

“The health care system, especially in southern Ontario is becoming overrun," he said. "ICU patients are becoming more and more ill, requiring ventilation, they’re in a situation now where they’re having to transfer patients. So there are significant hot spots in southern Ontario and vaccine has to be allocated to areas where they are most needed.”

During the media conference, it was mentioned that clinics are being planned for all home care recipients and homebound home care patients are in the process of receiving their vaccination as well.