Shalom Village residents receiving COVID-19 vaccine

Jan. 13, 2021
Steve Arnold

Shalom Village residents are getting potentially life-saving COVID-19 vaccine.

The medicine arrived Tuesday to applause and cheers from residents of the Macklin Street North complex where a vicious outbreak has claimed 19 lives since December.

Chief executive officer Ken Callaghan told a town hall meeting of residents and family on Wednesday he hopes the arrival of vaccine doses marks the beginning of the end for the outbreak.

“I think we are coming to the tail end of it,” he said. “Our percentage of active cases is shrinking rapidly. We are getting out of this.”

Callaghan said 129 of the home’s residents were vaccinated Tuesday – that’s 87 per cent of the current occupants. Those who were too sick to be inoculated Tuesday will have a second chance in 21 days when the first group is scheduled to get their second shots.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the arrival of vaccinations for the residents of Shalom Village. This is the moment everyone has been waiting for since March of last year,” Callaghan said in an email statement. “Shalom Village staff, as well as our partners from Public Health and St. Joseph’s Healthcare have worked tirelessly to support and protect our residents. The arrival of this vaccine will provide them with one of the most important tools available to help safeguard our seniors.”

While vaccine provides hope for the future, Shalom Village still faces challenges from the pandemic.

Callaghan told his audience the homes still has 199 cases of COVID infection – 108 among residents and 91 among staff. Only 23 of those cases remain active.

The vaccination take-up for staff has been slower than for residents. By Wednesday, just over half to the home’s workers had been inoculated.

“Every day that number is climbing and we will get it as high as we can,” he said.

Part of the problem, Callaghan said, is only 10 staff can be vaccinated at a time when clinics are held. In addition, because they are to receive the Pfizer vaccine, they must travel to clinics. The medicine cannot be easily moved because it requires storage at extremely low temperatures.

The deadly virus was kept away from Shalom Village for nine months by rigid cleaning and screening processes. It isn’t known, yet, how those defenses were breached.

Since the outbreak, the campus of 127-bed long-term care beds and 81 apartments has been locked down with all non-essential visitors banned and apartment residents confined to their units.

In addition, the home has voluntarily signed a three-month management agreement with St. Joseph’s Healthcare. Staff shortages are being covered by workers from contract agencies recommended by St. Joseph’s. Under that agreement a St. Joseph’s staffer has taken over as interim director of care while a permanent worker is sought.

Callaghan added most staff are accepting the need to be inoculated and managers have been told they can’t require staff to be vaccinated. In addition, unvaccinated staff cannot be scheduled differently than co-workers who have taken the shots. 

The continued lock down of the facility is starting to wear on apartment residents who can’t even leave their units to use the communal showers or stroll around their floors. Callaghan said that is necessary because every time a resident does go out their unit requires deep cleaning.

It will be up to the city’s public health department to decree when those restrictions can be lifted.