With a batch of COVID-19 vaccines hitting the Merritt area last week for the first time, immunization clinics were quick to be held at the Nicola Valley Hospital.

Among those first to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine were supposed to be the residents of The Florentine Retirement and Assisted Living Facility, though scheduling issues plagued the first round.

“We provided IHA (Interior Health Authority) with a list of all of our residents, as well as contractors and subcontractors who regularly interface with our site,” said Frank Rizzardo, President of The Florentine, in a phone interview.

The list was able to provide IHA with a planning number of sorts, which was then transferred over to the hospital staff.

From there, residents were then able to contact the hospital to schedule an inoculation time.

“On their website, I believe, it would show the number of spots available for each of those times,” said Rizzardo, who added some Florentine residents were successful in booking the time slot that they requested, while others were not.

“Sometimes, unfortunately, people don’t adhere to the process. We had a couple of our people show up, and there were 30 people waiting, and only 13 inoculations were available. That will eventually get worked through, that is a process that is an administration process.

“I expect that if somebody showed up, and there would be a gap, with only a short time left in validity or functionality of the vaccine, that they have already thought it out that it could be wasted, they are not going to waste it. They will inoculate anybody that is there.”

According to a report from Health Canada, the refrigerated shelf life of the Pfizer vaccine is five days, while for the Moderna vaccine it is 30 days.

While Rizzardo can confirm with certainty that both residents and staff from The Florentine have received the vaccinations, a number or a percentage is unavailable at this early stage.

“There are a few factors, we have to get clearances from all of our employees and staff to take it…it’s not mandatory, but it is recommended. Same with the residents, if there is a resident where the doctor might say that they are compromised if they take it, that there might be underlying conditions that might be affected by being vaccinated.”

An email response from an Interior Health Media Relations representative said that clinics will continue in Merritt when more vaccine becomes available.

As with all communities, we are starting with priority groups identified provincially,” read the response. “This is focused on our most vulnerable population, which is our seniors in long-term care and assisted living, along with staff and physicians working in those facilities.

“As vaccine availability increases IH will continue to expand into other  priority groups.”

Rizzardo is confident that the program will be accelerated once more vaccination shipments reach Merritt, and if/when another vaccine is approved.

Canada is on track to receive around 6-million vaccines by the end of March.