May 17, 2022

With COVID-19 vaccine uptake stagnating, the London area health unit is cutting hours at its booking hotline as its public health counterpart in Elgin and Oxford counties closes its arena-based clinic in St. Thomas.

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With COVID-19 vaccine uptake stagnating, the London-area health unit is cutting hours at its booking hotline as its public health counterpart in Elgin and Oxford counties closes its arena-based clinic in St. Thomas.

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The Middlesex-London Health Unit announced Thursday its appointment phone line will operate Monday to Friday instead of seven days a week.

Saturday will be the last weekend day calls to the hotline will be answered by a live representative, the health unit said. Walk-in appointments are still available at all mass vaccination sites and appointments can be booked online anytime at www.covidvaccinelm.ca.

Southwestern Public Health, the health unit in Elgin and Oxford counties, will close its mass vaccination clinic at the St. Thomas-Elgin Memorial Arena on April 1 and move the operation to its headquarters at 1230 Talbot Street.

After the move, only walk-in appointments will be available, Southwestern Public Health said. The clinic will run Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. after April 1.

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Southwestern opened the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Memorial Arena March 15, 2021. The site has administered about 131,000 vaccine doses to date.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit’s COVID-19 vaccine booking line has been a fixture in the public immunization campaign for better or worse.

On March 3, 2021, the first day seniors 80 and older in the community became eligible to book appointments, the phone line crashed after it was inundated by more than 200,000 calls. Eleven days of appointments at the health unit’s two vaccine sites were booked in less than two hours.

The health unit urged the public to book online whenever possible to take pressure off the phone line.

When the province allowed people to move their second dose appointments earlier, the hotline was the only way to do it before the health unit revamped its online portal to accommodate rebookings.

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As it focuses its efforts on mobile and community pop-up clinics, the Middlesex-London Health Unit has scaled back operations at its Mt. Brydges clinic and will do the same at its Western Fair District Agriplex location starting Tuesday. The Agriplex site will run from Tuesday through Saturday starting next week instead of seven days a week.

In London and Middlesex County, about 90 per cent of people five and older have at least one dose, 88 per cent have two and about 50 per cent have three shots.

COVID-19 vaccine uptake has been virtually stagnant in the London area since the beginning of February.

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