TIMMINS -- COVID-19 vaccine rollout is progressing slowly but effectively in the northeast, according to medical officers of health in the region.

Sudbury, Timmins and Algoma's health units confirmed that all residents of long-term care, high-risk retirement and First Nations elder care homes who wanted a shot, now have their first dose.

The Porcupine Health Unit's top doctor, Lianne Catton, said Tuesday that second doses for those groups are rolling out over the next week — as well as first doses for other high-priority people described in the province's Phase 1 distribution plan.

"We are also moving forward with long-term care home, high-risk retirement home and First Nations elder care staff and essential caregivers," Catton said. "These will be one of the very next groups that will be receiving vaccinations."

Public Health Sudbury & Districts' medical officer of health, Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, added in an online update Sunday that high-priority healthcare workers will be among the next group of people to get shots, once the next shipment of vaccines arrives.

"We're expecting vaccines this week," Sutcliffe said. "Our plans are ... to offer immunization to all of the staff and essential caregivers of long-term care homes, to the residents of retirement homes and to begin immunizing the highest-priority healthcare workers across our area."

Alternate level of care patients transferring into long-term care are also priorities for the first phase.

Once all of these people receive vaccines, health units will then work to immunize the rest of the priority groups in Phase 1, including:

  • People ages 80 and older
  • Residents of retirement homes at large
  • High-priority healthcare workers (after those deemed highest priorities)
  • Indigenous adults
  • Adults in chronic home care

"The (vaccination of) adults 80 years of age and older will occur after the healthcare workers in the first level is done, but the planning goes on right away," said Catton.

The far north's Weeneebayko Area Health Authority is well into its mass immunization phase and health officials note that a smooth rollout for the rest of the region will require tight collaboration with community partners.

The next steps for the region's health units are to set up vaccination clinics, informing people about who is eligible and when — as well as making sure people know how to book an appointment to get the shot.

Catton and Sutcliffe said their health units are awaiting communication from the province's Ministry of Health on the best practices for those clinics, as its three-phase distribution plan progresses.

"We're still waiting on a number of really formed up details so that we can plan and share with you," Sutcliffe said. "Please rest assured that all of that planning is going on behind the scenes and we will make sure that we post that to our website."

In the meantime, Sutcliffe and Catton recommend people keep checking their local health units' websites.

They also suggest people talk with their healthcare providers about the vaccines, how they work, whether they should receive them and what potential side-effects they should be aware of.

"Doing that sooner than later would be a great step forward to ensure we're all prepared for the vaccine," Catton said.