As the province enters phase two of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, Aylmer, Ont., is one of the “hot spot” communities on the list to receive extra doses of the vaccine.
The province says COVID has disproportionately impacted certain neighbourhoods, and has classified some areas within 13 of the 35 public health units in Ontario as a hot spot.
There are 111 postal codes on the list. In Aylmer, N5H is the only one within Southwestern Public Health (SWPH) that is included.
“As soon as vaccines arrive our focus is turning to the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 and those with the highest-risk health conditions. With the extraordinary work of Team Ontario we aim to deliver over 9 million vaccinations across Ontario by the end of June,” Premier Doug Ford said.
Speaking during a weekly media briefing on Thursday, Dr. Joyce Lock, SWPH medical officer of health, told reporters she did not know the methodology behind the community being designated a hotspot but said there could be several factors.
“I think the higher cases count was a key issue in determining it to be a hot spot zone, but how that was decided is not clear,” Lock said.
Last summer, the town of 7,492 experienced a significant uptick in cases, with the Ontario Police College being the site of a more recent outbreak of cases in March. That outbreak resulted in over 100 cases reported.
As it stands now, the town of Aylmer has a cumulative incidence rate of 6,340 per 100,000, compared to SWPH’s overall cumulative rate of 1,387 per 100,000 is 1,387. For the Middlesex London Health Unit, the rate is at 1,559.
“As much as cases have climbed here, were are still well off from where the communities defined as hot spots are,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, London Medical Officer of Health during a media briefing Thursday.
“So as much as we wish cases were lower, they are not at the same rate as Peel and Toronto.”
When Ford made the announcement about hot spots earlier this week, he also said those communities would be able to vaccinate people as young as 18 years of age.
Lock said they are still analyzing the case data from the last year to best determine what area or groups should be prioritized.
“We do know the variants of concern spread rapidly in households and therefore the age limit for the more vulnerable setting has been decreased to 18, so what we are trying to do is ensure that in these vulnerable communities everyone is eligible for vaccines,” Lock said.
“We will be trying to determine how to be most impactful in the Aylmer area and what age brackets and settings will be the best to hit.”
Lock said they are starting to vaccinate large congregate settings in Aylmer, including the Ontario Police College.
While school workers and certain health conditions are included in phase 2, as well as those 60 to 64, they are not currently eligible in the region.
SWPH is in the process of setting up a registration process for essential workers so that when it comes time, they will be able to easily set up an appointment.
Lock said she thinks the health unit is able to get three-fourths of all eligible people in the region vaccinated by September.
A full list of who is eligible to get vaccinated can be found here.
— With files from the Canadian Press