Routine school vaccine clinics

Written by: Kerri Hutchinson, Region of Waterloo Public Health

COVID-19 has impacted many programs and services across a number of organizations. As our pandemic response escalated in March 2020, Region of Waterloo Public Health suspended enforcement of the Immunization of School Pupils Act and postponed the routine school vaccine program to redeploy staff to pandemic response.

As part of the routine school vaccine program, Public Health nurses visit each of the 120 schools in Waterloo Region to administer the mandatory vaccines for grade 7 students: Hepatitis B, HPV, and Meningococcal vaccines. In a typical school year, the program runs from October to June and takes the full school year to complete for each grade 7 cohort. Given that there are three cohorts of students who are currently eligible and have not started or have not completed their immunizations, Public Health developed an innovative model to complete three years in one.

Building off the success of mass immunization clinics used throughout the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out, Public Health will be hosting two fixed site clinics, one in Cambridge and one in Waterloo to administer vaccines to three cohorts of eligible students approximately 18,000 individuals. The clinics will run five days a week, with evening hours available for families Monday through Thursday.

“It was imperative for us to resume the routine school vaccine program to ensure all eligible students in grade 7, 8, and 9 receive and complete their immunizations against Hepatitis B, HPV, and Meningococcal disease,” said Kristy Wright, manager of the Vaccine Preventable Disease program. “Switching the service delivery to fixed, mass immunization clinics ensures that we have the capacity to immunize all eligible students in one year.”

Immunization leads to improved health in individuals and the general population. Vaccines help save lives and prevent serious illnesses. Working to ensure routine immunizations are kept up-to-date is an important part of protecting the health of your child and family. 

Students and their families will be notified of the routine school vaccine clinics through their schools and information about the clinics is available on the Public Health website.

Not your average GRT bus

Written by: Teresa Chiavaroli, Region of Waterloo Transit Services

The pandemic has brought many firsts for Grand River Transit (GRT) and transforming a bus into a mobile testing and vaccination clinic was no exception. 

“We’d never done anything like it,” said Oswald Resendes, assistant manager of Production and Transit Fleet. “We weren’t sure what the layout would be at first and I can’t tell you how many conversations were had about chairs.”

Truck and coach technicians Denis Beletic, Richard McKnight and Jeff Wensink took on the task enthusiastically. Following a request from Communitech in the spring, the team transformed a couple if GRT buses into COVID-19 screening centres as part of the Mobile StaySafe™ Rapid Antigen Screening Program.

Collaborating with Communitech and Regional teams including Public Health, Economic Development, Creative Multimedia Services and within GRT, fleet staff essentially figured out how to fit office furnishings into a 10 by 40 foot bus. All the seats were removed and divisions and barriers were put in place to ensure physical distancing between each workstation.

By summer, the team was asked to take those same buses and transform them again, this time into mobile vaccination clinics. This required the addition of a refrigerator and rotating chairs secured safely to the floor in each of the four patient areas.

Richard is a talented fabricator who colleagues say loves to take on new challenges and come up with solutions. “When I first approached him with this project, he just lit up,” said Resendes.

Jeff is known for his meticulous attention to detail. He worked on how best to fit and install all the computers that would be needed for the four workstations. Denis conducted safety checks on the bus and put in extra time to ensure the job was done right.

Each transformation took about a week and each technician brought various skills. “Really, it took the entire fleet team working on various other projects that still needed to get done, to allow these guys to focus on this,” said Bill Barr, manager of Transit Maintenance.

The mobile vaccination buses are currently on the road hitting priority neighbourhoods to ensure the vaccine is accessible. As of mid-October, the buses have helped administer more than 2,500 doses in our community. The team is pleased to have helped make a difference, “They were happy to help contribute to this project, no hesitation,” said Resendes.

Saving water at home: good for the environment, good for your wallet

Brendan Schaefer helps deliver the WET program for local homeowners

Written by: Scott Cressman, Water Program Coordinator

The Region of Waterloo’s free Water Efficient Technology (WET) Program has helped save water since 2015. The program provides a visit from an expert advisor who reviews a home’s water use and gives personalized tips on the best ways to save. The Region operates the program with Reep Green Solutions, a local environmental organization. It’s just one way the Region is working to protect our local environment.

Many people can save significant water with a few simple changes, said Brendan Schaefer, a water advisor with Reep. “It’s very rewarding,” said Schaefer. “It’s something that has a big impact right away. There are simple solutions that can really make a huge difference for people.”

The Region has provided over 1,600 WET Home Reviews since the program launched. Schaefer is the friendly, knowledgeable water expert who has done about half of them. During each home visit, he inspects for common leaks, examines showerheads, toilets, water softeners and washing machines, and explains to homeowners how different behaviours impact water consumption.

No two houses are the same, but Schaefer often recommends switching to efficient showerheads and toilets, shaving a few minutes off your shower time or fixing leaky toilets.

This partnership between the Region and Reep Green Solutions has created significant benefits for the Region and its residents. Participating homes save an average of 80,000 litres per year, or over $400 (about 25%) off their annual water bill. The changes homeowners have made thanks to the WET Program are saving 130 million litres of water each year. And that number goes up with each home that benefits from the program.

Conservation is important because the Region of Waterloo draws most of our drinking water from underground wells. Using this resource efficiently means the community has enough groundwater available for future generations without building expensive new infrastructure.

Water conservation also saves energy, because it takes electricity to clean and pump water, so water efficiency helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve the Region’s climate change goals.

The WET program is free and available now to single-family homes with above-average water use. Learn more or request your free home review.

A Time to Listen: Indigenous authors series

Written by: Janine Toms, Region of Waterloo Library

Storytelling is a collective experience and an essential part of Indigenous culture. Sharing stories inspired by lived experience allows history, tradition and knowledge to be passed from generation to generation.

The Region of Waterloo Library is proud to present a three-part series featuring Indigenous authors sharing their stories, voices and experiences. 

Join us for these in-depth talks with Indigenous authors:

Lee Maracle Tuesday, November 16 at 8 p.m. An award-winning poet, novelist, performance storyteller, scriptwriter, actor and keeper/mythmaker among the Sto:lo People. 

David RobertsonTuesday, November 23 at 8 p.m. A gifted Swampy Cree author and graphic novelist, shares insights from his memoir, “Black Water”.

Drew Hayden TaylorWednesday, December 1 at 7 p.m. This celebrated Ojibway author discusses exploration, and delves into Indigenous humour and how its woven into his work.

Register for this online series.

Taking a village: Children and Youth Planning Table of Waterloo Region

Around the Region showcases the work of community partners. For November, we highlight the Children and Youth Planning Table, which works to create a community where children and youth can be happy and healthy.

Written by: Stu Gooden, Region of Waterloo

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. In Waterloo Region, the village is mobilizing to create a place where children and youth can be happy and healthy.

Since 2011, the Children and Youth Planning Table (CYPT) has been working to improve the well-being of children and youth in Waterloo Region. Currently, more than 60 organizations and 800 adults and young people work together to make this happen.

A key partner is the Region of Waterloo. The Region hosts the CYPT at 150 Frederick St. and the majority of the staff team. Several Regional staff members sit at the Table, and they work together with other partners to coordinate community-wide efforts to address child and youth well-being. Other partners include UNICEF Canada, local service providers, researchers, planning bodies and funders serving young people and families in the community.

Since 2019, most of the work has been related to belonging, specifically in the areas of equity, attachment and relationships, and children and youth feeling valued, heard and included. 

The Children and Youth Planning Table administers the largest multi-dimensional survey in Waterloo Region to hear first-hand from young people about their well-being. Results are coming soon from more than 1000 youth age nine to 18 who participated, and CYPT will be leading community action-planning from the data from the 2021 Youth Impact Survey.

The CYPT is also a key partner in Smart Waterloo Region, a project that’s supported by the Region of Waterloo along with the seven area municipalities that’s stimulating innovation and bridging supports from technology and data to address child and youth well-being.

It’s been an unusual time for everyone over the past 20 months. COVID-19 has shown that well-being matters now, more than ever. CYPT partners work together to make it easier to find help. Visit Family Compass, the go-to website to find services, supports and COVID-19 resources for children, youth and families.

For more information about the Children and Youth Planning Table, visit their website or follow them on Twitter and Instagram.

2022 Plan and Budget

The Region of Waterloo’s Plan and Budget helps meet the needs of everyone in Waterloo Region.

The Strategic Plan describes the community’s goal of being a world class community for everyone. This goal happens by funding high-quality programs and services in the budget. Through the 2022 Plan and Budget, the Region strives to improve the lives of every single person who calls Waterloo Region home.

Watch Plan and Budget meetings or register to speak during public input sessions on November 24 and December 8.