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Physiotherapist answers provincial call for vaccinators but pushes for N95 provision


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A week after speaking out about the help physiotherapists could offer in administering COVID-19 booster shots, Jaime Trick is on her way to putting needles into arms.

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Last Wednesday, the Ontario government announced it was making regulatory amendments to bolster the booster rollout, allowing more people, from dentists to firefighters, to administer COVID-19 vaccines under the supervision of a physician, nurse or pharmacist.

A call for volunteer vaccinators from the Ontario Physiotherapy Association landed in her inbox Dec. 23, but Trick says she and others had gotten a heads-up the previous day via the massage therapists’ association and registered in the provincial health workforce matching portal.

Trick, an orthopedic physiotherapist who works at clinics in the Glebe and Stittsville, has already finished her 2.5 hours of online vaccinator training and hopes to administer shots at a drive-thru clinic in Kingston this weekend, where a nurse friend has been working. She’s just waiting to receive her registration details for the province’s COVID-19 vaccine information system.

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“Even to think that I had a small, tiny bit in that, maybe, was really exciting,” said Trick of the province’s expansion of potential vaccinators. She had taken to social media to advocate for the inclusion of physiotherapists in COVID-19 vaccination administration, in addition to speaking with this newspaper.

“The fact that we’ve been able to get through all of the training and things keep falling into place, I just want to actually see where we can sign up … And once I actually get onsite, it will feel like I’ve really contributed to this. So that’s exciting.”

She’s not done with advocating, though. Trick tweeted this week that Ottawa vaccinators aren’t allowed to wear respirators, having been told as much by someone else involved in the rollout, and calling for policy updates.

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OPH, meanwhile, said it follows guidance from Public Health Ontario regarding mask recommendations, and staff at city-run clinics are allowed to wear N95s  – which are respirators – on duty.

As Health Canada’s website explains, respirators are tight-fitting and filter the air breathed by the wearer, while medical masks act as a barrier against droplets. COVID-19 can spread through both droplets and aerosols.

“I’m glad that OPH is not limiting people from wearing their own N95s, but they’re not supplying and that needs to change,” Trick told this newspaper (she updated her Twitter thread with the info from OPH).

“We know right now that when we have high community transmission, which we do, that somebody is going to be coming into that clinic who has Omicron, who is in a state of being able to transmit the virus. And they’re dealing with … (people) that have to choose themselves to wear a N95. And not everyone can afford to buy their own.”

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OPH said it provides all clinic staff, immunizers and volunteers with medical-grade masks in accordance with the provincial guidance on masking for healthcare workers, and said the health and safety of clinic staff, volunteers, and clients is a top priority. Meanwhile, OPH “continues to monitor closely any updates from the province on masking guidance.”

Considerable attention has coalesced around the provision and use of N95s, particularly following the emergence of Omicron, with reports that Ontario schools boards will provide the respirators to teachers in January, a local family doctor launching a petition to call for the premier to provide them to every Ontario household and big-name pandemic experts advocating for their use even for the general population.

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