BARRIE, ONT. -- The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has a community strategy to vaccinate the majority of over half a million residents over several months.

The health unit follows Ontario's three-phased plan for vaccine distribution, which involves vaccinating thousands of residents daily through various vaccine clinics.

Here are some of your questions answered about the vaccination program across Simcoe Muskoka.

WHO CAN GET VACCINATED RIGHT NOW?

The Ontario government has outlined a three-phased approach that prioritized vaccinations for the most vulnerable, including seniors and high-risk residents.

May 24
Anyone turning 18 or older in 2021 will qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine through the provincial online booking system.

May 17
Residents turning 30 or older can book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine.

May 10
Residents 40 and older, people with at-risk health conditions and anyone who can't work from home (Group 2).
Group 2 includes essential and critical retail workers, including those in manufacturing directly involved in COVID-19 response, social work, the justice system, transportation, electricity, communications, water and wastewater, financial services, veterinarians, waste management, oil and petroleum, natural gas, mine workers, uranium processing.
Residents in the at-risk health category will also be eligible for the vaccine this week.

May 6
Residents turning 50 or older in 2021 can book online through the provincial booking system or by calling 1-833-943-3900 seven days a week.
Anyone in the high-risk condition category, including obesity, immunosuppressed, and intellectual or developmental disabilities, will be eligible to register for the vaccine.

May 3
Residents 40 and older living anywhere in Bradford West Gwillimbury can book an appointment through the special community booking system. Residents 18 and older living in the L3Z postal code can book an appointment through the town's website, the provincial booking system, or call 1-833-943-3900.
Anyone turning 18 or older in 2021 living anywhere in Bradford can only book a vaccine appointment at one of the pop-up clinics through the town's website.

April 29
Child care workers in licensed settings are eligible for the shot and can book an appointment by calling the province's booking number at 1-833-943-3900.

April 26
Individuals 55 and older are eligible to book an appointment to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, along with other priority groups.
The eligible list of residents also includes faith leaders who are in close contact with specific individuals, essential caregivers in seniors' facilities, all remaining healthcare workers, adult recipients of chronic home care, and Indigenous adults and their household members over 16.
Plus, transplant recipients and some cancer patients can receive their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

April 23
Pregnant women of all ages qualify as high-risk for severe illness and can register to book a vaccine.

AstraZeneca

Select pharmacies in the region were offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to residents 40 and older dependent on supply.   Primary care physicians were also booking vaccine appointments for some clients for AstraZeneca vaccines in the region.

However, on May 11, Ontario announced it would no longer offer first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine because of increased reports of rare blood clots.

WHO IS NEXT IN LINE?

The health unit is following the province's vaccination program and will accept appointments from eligible residents (see above).

Following Phase 2, the province plans to start vaccinating all Ontarians over the age of 16.

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

To check when you will be eligible for the vaccine, head to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit's website for updates.

SMDHU's goal is to have at least 75 per cent of the region immunized with both doses by the end of August.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP?

Book an appointment online or call the provincial booking line at 1-833-943-3900 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. seven days a week..

The system doesn't allow group bookings, so each individual needs their own appointment.

Alternatively, check the SMDHU website for how to pre-register for an appointment.

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW BEFORE REGISTERING?

Only those in the priority groups are eligible to register for their vaccine due to a limited supply.

Indigenous adults need to bring proof of ancestry and residency to confirm eligibility. Contact the local Indigenous organization if these documents are readily available.

Eligible child care workers are required to bring a letter from their employer to their vaccination appointment.

WHO HAS ALREADY RECEIVED THE VACCINE?

COVID-19 immunizations began in Simcoe Muskoka on Dec. 22, 2020.

Roughly 90 per cent of long-term care and retirement home residents in Simcoe Muskoka have received their first dose of vaccine, with the majority having already received their second dose.

Additionally, over 242,500 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Simcoe Muskoka, including doses administered by local pharmacies.

Over 225,500 Simcoe Muskoka residents have received their first dose of vaccine, which represents over 36 per cent of the total population.

WHEN DO I GET MY SECOND DOSE?

Dialysis patients, transplant recipients and some cancer patients who received their first dose of the vaccine can book their second shot.

Some dialysis patients will be able to get the shot in their dialysis unit.

Patients who cannot receive the vaccine within the dialysis unit will require a letter from the dialysis unit/nephrologist to confirm that they are eligible to get a second dose appointment at the earlier interval identifying the reason for the exception.

Transplant recipients and some cancer patients 18+ who have already received their first COVID-19 shot are now to receive their second dose at 21 to 28 days as per the Ontario Vaccine Clinical Advisory.

The Ontario government requires that long-term care and retirement home residents receive their second dose within 21 to 27 days of their first.

The health unit is giving the second dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine 16 weeks after the first dose under the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendation.

WHERE ARE THE VACCINES BEING DISTRIBUTED?

There are various locations across Simcoe County and Muskoka for vaccination clinics. Drive-thru and mobile clinics are also available.

The health unit will use pop-up clinics for more remote areas.

Simcoe Muskoka Vaccine Clinics

WHO DO I CONTACT IF I HAVE QUESTIONS?

The SMDHU can help with any questions or concerns by calling 705-721-7520 head to the health unit's website.