Tuesday is the deadline for Hamilton youth aged 12 to 17 to get their first COVID-19 vaccine in order to be fully inoculated by the time school starts.
Public health says getting their first dose by July 27 — and their second by Aug. 24 — will ensure students are fully vaccinated two weeks before back-to-school.
As of July 26, only two-thirds of youth in the city, or 65.8 per cent, have received their first dose, while 43.2 per cent of youth have had both shots.
The city is also lagging behind the provincial vaccination rate needed to leave step 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan.
In Hamilton, 76.6 per cent of eligible adults have had their first dose and 64.4 per cent have had two.
In order to move into the next phase, 80 per cent of eligible Ontarians must have had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 75 per cent must be fully vaccinated with two shots.
Additionally, every public health unit in the province should at least 70 per cent of their population fully vaccinated.
The province’s top doctor has recently said he’d like to see those numbers even higher, considering the threat posed by the more transmissible Delta variant.
“The highest rate we have will allow our society to return to a more normal state — a post-pandemic era — with less fear because there will be less risk of the virus spreading in our communities, spreading to vulnerable populations, spreading in long-term care facilities or overwhelming our health system,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, during a briefing last week.
Hamilton’s medical officer of health said the city still has ‘a bit of a ways to go’ in reaching the provincial targets and is now issuing a ‘call to arms’ to those who still haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“It’s never been more convenient than it is today to get those vaccines,” said Dr. Elizabeth Richardson during a media briefing on Monday.
“It’s really important to get those quickly as we head towards the fall and people going back to school, whether it’s in middle school, high school, college, university, whatever it may be, a teacher or a student, all of those staff that play such a critical role in all of these institutions.”
The push to reach those who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine dose comes as Hamilton begins to wind down the mass vaccination strategy, with its three mass clinics scheduled to close over the next few weeks.
Those clinics have been operating on a walk-in basis for first and second doses since mid-July and will continue to do so until they close.
Anyone who is eligible can also book their first dose online or through the provincial hotline, as well as move up their second dose appointments to 28 days after receiving the first dose.
Dr. Richardson said public health is continuing to conduct outreach to those who haven’t yet been vaccinated and letting them know about the vaccination deadlines of July 27 and Aug. 24.
“But don’t be deterred if it’s the next day or the day after — that’s still a great time to get vaccinated.”
There are 116 confirmed active cases of COVID-19 in Hamilton, with 31 new ones reported on Monday.
The city has three active outbreaks. One at St. Joseph’s Villa has infected a total of 14 people, while another at Arbour Creek long term care centre has spread to 16 people.
The third is at a Canadian Pacific Railway facility on Gage Avenue South that includes three staff cases.
Hamilton’s seven-day average is 13 cases, the weekly case rate per 100,000 is 15, and the reproductive number is 1.22.
The city’s test positivity rate is at 1.68 per cent, which is the fifth highest in Ontario.