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MLHU set to expand 2nd-dose COVID-19 vaccine re-booking as Delta variant gains ground

Full vials of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine before a drive-thru vaccine clinic in Kingston, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. The Canadian Press file

UPDATE: The MLHU confirmed Thursday afternoon that it was expanding second dose appointment re-booking eligibility effective immediately to anyone who received their first dose on May 30 or earlier, provided that the second dose is scheduled at least 28 days later.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit says it’s expecting its largest COVID-19 vaccine shipment to date this weekend and will soon be expanding eligibility to re-book earlier second-dose appointments.

At the same time, the MLHU says it has received confirmation of four more cases of the Delta variant, first identified in India, bringing the local total of confirmed Delta variant cases to six.

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The four cases involve people between the ages of 18 and 31, none of whom travelled recently.

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The health unit is still in the process of confirming information but associate medical officer of health Dr. Alex Summers says the cases have resolved and it’s believed none of the individuals were fully vaccinated.

“We believe that there were primarily unvaccinated individuals, potentially partially unvaccinated. We’re just trying to confirm. But none of them were fully vaccinated.”

Read more: Delta COVID-19 variant — A look at the risks, symptoms and impact on vaccines

Summers adds that the MLHU is doing “sporadic surveillance of all the cases in our region.”

“This suggests that the Delta variant is likely even more common than the six cases that are reported.”

Provincial data found that the Delta variant is already the dominant strain in many regions, Summers says, and is likely to be the dominant variant across the province within the next three to four weeks.

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The MLHU says it was informed earlier on Wednesday about an incoming shipment of nearly 43,000 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine expected this weekend. That shipment is on top of 25,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine expected by the end of the day, 19,000 doses of Moderna that arrived last Friday, and another 38,000 Moderna doses arriving this week.

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“From our perspective, it couldn’t be better timed,” says medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie.

“We have been able already to add the roughly 43,000 additional appointments into our vaccine booking system. Those are primarily at the Agriplex as well as Earl Nichols and the North London Optimist Community Centre.”

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As well, Mackie says the MLHU hopes to announce on Thursday that it will be expanding eligibility to re-book earlier second-dose appointments to anyone who received their first dose on or before May 30.

“We’ll confirm that on our media briefing tomorrow at 2 p.m. We’re just dotting I’s and crossing T’s with partners. At this point, it seems very likely we’ll be able to make that opening.”

Currently, anyone who was vaccinated on or before May 9 is eligible to re-book their second dose appointment.

Read more: Delta variant to account for 90% of COVID-19 cases in EU by end-August, health agency says

Health officials are urging everyone to get vaccinated, pointing to the situation in the United Kingdom, which is experiencing a fourth wave of the pandemic driven by the Delta variant.

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“That’s a country with vaccination rates comparable to Canada’s and better second dose vaccination rates than Canada,” Mackie says.

Summers adds that “the threat for partially vaccinated people is notable.”

He says emerging studies out of the U.K. suggest that one dose of vaccine has a 33 per cent effectiveness rate against symptomatic disease and a 94 per cent effectiveness rate against hospitalization from the Delta variant.

“Which is why if you haven’t gotten vaccinated at all, if you don’t have a single dose and you’re eligible, get out and get it because it’ll prevent you from being hospitalized.”

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