Hamilton reports over 120 new COVID-19 cases, challenges targeting vaccines for those ‘at risk’

Click to play video: 'Canada reaches 10.8 million COVID-19 inoculations: Dr. Njoo' Canada reaches 10.8 million COVID-19 inoculations: Dr. Njoo
Canada has reached a new COVID-19 vaccination milestone – 10.8 million people have received at least one inoculation, deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo said on Thursday. – Apr 22, 2021

A bioethicist and assistant professor with the University of Toronto says despite a lot of mixed messaging around who’s eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine in Ontario, he’s optimistic that the bulk of the population will have at least one dose in the next four months.

Dr. Kerry Bowman says the government’s decision to prioritize getting first doses into as many arms as possible is a good one. However, the move means the window for a second shot, required by all three vaccines distributed in Canada, is now farther away for many.

“I’m really hoping that if we end up to our necks in vaccines, as our federal government keeps telling us, that in fact this window could be shortened,” said Bowman.

Read more: Ontario reports nearly 3,700 new COVID-19 cases, 40 deaths as ICU patients surpass 800

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So far Ontario has received just over 5.2 million of the three vaccines – Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca – from the federal government as of Wednesday.

The province has administered the bulk of them, 4.2 million. However, only just over 350,000 recipients of a first dose have received the second as of April 21.

Interruptions in vaccine supply have been the root cause of delays in getting second doses into arms.

In early March the Ford government extended the interval between first and second doses by as much as four months based on data from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which concluded there was “substantial protection” from symptomatic disease and severe illness with a single shot.

During a board of health meeting earlier this week, Hamilton’s medical officer of health (MOH) said supply is the biggest issue with the current Phase 2 rollout, projecting up to 300,000 city residents will be eligible for a vaccine under the plan.

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Since late February, just over 160,000 doses have been administered in the city, with more than half the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Read more: COVID-19 — ‘Ring vaccination’ can teach us how to target limited supply

Over 28.4 per cent of the city’s eligible population over the age of 16 have received at least one dose as of Wednesday.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson told councillors this week “there’s no opening all this up” to broader age ranges amid limited vaccine supply.

The current rate of exhaustion per day of all vaccines at the existing clinics, excluding pharmacies and primary care clinics, is about 3,000 doses. On average, the city typically receives about 24,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine every Tuesday.

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The MOH says the trick now in Phase 2 is to target “at-risk” residents, like those with health conditions and essential workers in congregate settings, to maximize protection for the city.

“We’re trying to divide our vaccine between those that are of greatest risk because of age or because of their health status that we know about,” said Richardson.

An example of that challenge was the filling up of two weekend clinics at First Ontario in which public health and its primary care partners had targeted a Black and racialized segment of the public over 40.

Read more: Doug Ford confirms paid sick leave program for workers coming, apologizes for backtracking

However, the bookings didn’t necessarily reflect those demographics as “equity-seeking groups” didn’t get the word out in time through their communication networks before the appointments were scooped up by the general public under 40 with the help of a social media campaign.

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“And this is part of the challenge is when there’s a broad access in terms of people being able to get in,” said Richardson.

“We find that often those who are equity-seeking aren’t able to get there and get the access they need.”

While pharmacies are booking anyone aged 40 and up for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the youngest demographic for which the city is accepting bookings as of Thursday is residents aged 50 and up in five Hamilton COVID-19 hot spots.

Vaccinations for the general public are still limited to those aged 60 years and older in this calendar year.


Hamilton reports 128 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death

Hamilton reported 128 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and recorded the city’s 350th virus-related death amid the pandemic.

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The new death was a person over the age of 80.

There have now been 15,986 total coronavirus cases locally since the pandemic began last year.

The city reported six new outbreaks at three workplaces, a seniors’ home, a public school and a church.

Outbreaks at roofing contractor Flynn Canada, National Steel Car and ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s tube slitter line all involve cases among workers. The largest is at the National Steel Car location on Kenilworth Avenue North, which is reporting six cases.

Read more: COVID-19 — Niagara Health reports ICU capacity over 100% at St. Catharines hospital

The 16 current outbreaks in workplaces across the city involve over 100 cases.

An outbreak at Mount Albion Elementary in Stoney Creek was declared over on Wednesday. The school had six total cases involving three students and three staff members.

City schools account for six current surges and 12 total cases.

Hamilton has 48 outbreaks as of Thursday involving more than 270 total cases.

Two other outbreaks are at Blessings Christian Church in Central Hamilton, which is reporting six cases among patrons, and the Blackadar Continuing Care seniors home in Dundas with two resident cases.

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Read more: COVID-19 vaccination clinic for 40 and over in Hamilton fills up due to overwhelming response

Active cases were up day over day by 138 to 1,783. The city’s seven-day average of new cases is up nine day over day to 174 as of April 22.

Over 68 per cent of the city’s new cases are among people under the age of 50, according to public health.

Cases involving variants are up by 300 day over day.

Public health says they have now identified over 2,300 cases tied to variants and that of the city’s 48 outbreaks, variants have been positively screened at 31 locations.

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