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Local councillor takes to the phones in an effort to get eligible constituents pre-registered for a COVID vaccine

As of Monday, the province has extended vaccine eligibility in 114 hot spots to anyone turning 18 or older this year. Six of those hot spots are in Waterloo Region

With the province lowering age limits this week for who can register to get a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in 114 Ontario hot spots, one local councillor has taken it upon himself to cold-call constituents to make sure they're aware of the new eligibility.

"I think Ward 6 has been hit the hardest, at least in our region," said Kitchener Ward 6 Councillor, Paul Singh. "And I think that's partly due to more dense houses and generational families living together."

"You have more people in a smaller area so that's a cause for higher transmission and faster transmission," he said.

Kitchener Ward 6 includes Country Hills and Alpine/Laurentian, two of six high-priority neighbourhoods designated by the province in Waterloo Region. The others include Vanier/Rockway in Kitchener, Victoria Hills/Cherry Hill in Kitchener, Shades Mills in Cambridge, and Columbia/Lakeshore in Waterloo.

"I'm glad that the province is now pushing a strategy of targeted approach in areas that have higher COVID transmission," Singh said, "This should have been the strategy applied much sooner."

As part of the province's effort to temporarily target hot spots, Ontario is also re-routing half of its vaccine supply to these 114 areas for a period of two weeks. Also important to know, you don't have to actually be 18-years-old right now to pre-register, you just have to have been born in 2003 and therefore are turning 18 at some point this year.

"And some of the challenges are, again, communication, getting the word out so people know where they can get their vaccine and, again, once they register, getting a vaccine shortly after," said Singh who has even started picking up his own phone and dialling constituents in an effort to make sure as many as possible are aware of the eligibility changes and can take advantage of it.

"It's a slow approach but I've had the opportunity to talk to many residents and some, I'm glad to hear, they've already taken the step of registering and some getting vaccinated and others just becoming aware of the eligibility now," said Singh.

Singh also says he's yet to run into any major concerns surrounding vaccine hesitancy or those looking to delay for their preferred dose.

"That's one thing that I was expecting and I haven't noticed that," he said. "Obviously I haven't spoken to everyone in my ward but, with the many calls I have made, everyone's been receptive."

"The only way we're going to come out of this is with all of us being vaccinated," said Singh. "As soon as they lowered the age requirement for 40-and-up I registered immediately and I got vaccinated with AstraZeneca; myself and my wife."

Singh, echoing advice from countless experts who have said the best dose for you, at this point, is the one available to you right now.

"Irrespective of some of the new communication that may be coming out from other agencies, for me, that doesn't matter very much," he said. "I'm glad that I'm vaccinated and I encourage everyone else to do the same."

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