“This is a pandemic (now) of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) during his regular information session with regional media July 19. “The quicker we all get vaccinated, the sooner we can get back to normal.”
Dr. Roumeliotis noted the numbers of people in the EOHU region who have received either their first or second dose of vaccine against COVID-19 continue to grow. Right now the number for first-dose individuals is 142,453, or about 80 per cent of the population, which includes children ages 12 and up and adults age 18 and older.
The numbers for second-dose cases of vaccine for the EOHU region are 98,541. That figure includes 54 per cent of children age 12 and up and 57 per cent of adults ages 18 and over.
The figures are good, Dr. Roumeliotis said, but they must be better and at least in the 85 per cent to 90 per cent range for the whole population to create the “herd immunity” factor that will help reduce the risk of outbreaks of the Delta variant or other COVID-19 mutations. Right now the United States and England are both dealing with Delta outbreaks in parts of those two countries where too many people have been vaccinated, either for lack of opportunity or because they refuse to get vaccinated.
The EOHU is now working on a strategy with its community partners to increase the number of first-time doses and second-time doses of vaccine between now and the end of August and reach the 90 per cent population protected goal. That includes increasing the number of mass vaccination clinics where possible, using a mobile vaccination team to go into outlying parts of rural areas in the EOHU where people find it difficult, for lack of transportation or opportunity, to go to a mass vaccination clinic.
The EOHU is also urging people who have their second-dose appointments schedule for September or later in the season to rebook their appointments earlier, either at one of the mass vaccination clinics or through their family doctor or at a pharmacy that has either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
The mass vaccination program will end after August 28, Dr. Roumeliotis noted. Anyone not able to get their first or second dose of vaccine before then will still be able to do so through either their family doctor or at a pharmacy that has vaccine available.
“We will have vaccine available,” Dr. Roumeliotis said, adding that the EOHU itself will be able to do vaccinations through its regional offices. “The vaccination plan will go on after August. We’re not closing shop completely.”
The EOHU is also working with regional school boards on a strategy to provide vaccinations in schools for students who have not yet had their first or second dose. The plan will involve consultation with parents whose children are of primary school age.
Once the EOHU and other parts of Ontario have reached the 90 per cent figure for second-dose vaccinations, Dr. Roumeliotis noted, it may be possible then to consider modifications to the masking guidelines during the pandemic. Wearing a mask may only be required for unvaccinated inviduals or for dealing with very large crowd situations like concerts or sports events and other activities where there may still be a few individuals present who have not gotten their vaccinations.