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Ontario’s top doc says Hamilton’s COVID vaccination numbers could be ‘better’

Ontario's medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore says higher vaccination rates against COVID-19 in Hamilton could help quell a potential 'difficult' fall and winter. KFL&A Public Health

Ontario’s chief medical officer says his message to Hamiltonians is that Health Canada approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and “the only way out” of the pandemic.

Dr. Kieran Moore told Global News that immunization numbers across the city and the province have been “slipping” of late and that Ontario has been stuck at just over 81 per cent of first doses for some time.

“I hope our communities, Hamilton included, will continue to embrace immunization as our way out of this,” Moore said.

Read more: Ontario reports nearly 500 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths

He characterized Hamilton’s current vaccination numbers as “good” but could be “better” than the 78 per cent of residents reported to have had a first shot and the 70 percent fully vaccinated.

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The city also continues to have challenges with those aged under 30 with only about 56.61 percent having been fully vaccinated.

Regionally, there are five forward sortation areas (FSA), three in central Hamilton and one in the east end, that have second dose rates less than 50 per cent.

“As we go into the fall, the higher the rate, the less illness will have in our communities, the less impact on your local hospitals and the more our mental, social, physical and economic well-being won’t be impacted,” said Moore.

 

 

Moore says the province will “always have” a testing strategy to protect those vulnerable to the virus and for those who choose not to get immunized. He says the education and health sectors will continue to be primary targets for testing.

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The top doc is not ruling out mandatory vaccinations should a health agency decide to “raise the bar” and move to mandatory shots following a risk assessment.

“They’re not off the table,” Moore said

“This was a baseline expectation of all hospitals, all home care providers in Ontario to provide a minimal level of protection for the patients that they serve. To protect the community as well and to set the standard for the community.”

Read more: Trudeau doubles down on mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for domestic travel

Ontario’s reported COVID case numbers took another jump day over day on Wednesday moving from 348 to 485. On Tuesday, the province said there were 127 patients in ICUs with 98 patients on ventilators.

Hamilton reported 36 new cases on Wednesday with 321 active cases.  Over 46 per cent of the new cases are among those under the age of 30. There are a total of 38 COVID patients in city hospitals with 25 at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and 13 at St. Joe’s.

The number of tests coming back from local labs as positive moved up again for the fifth straight week from 3.33 to 5.7 as of Aug. 18.

Of the 34 Ontario public health units, Hamilton has been number two in percent positivity data behind Windsor-Essex in recent months.

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There are nine outbreaks in the city accounting for 30 total COVID cases — 18 tied to the shelters.

With rising case numbers across many of the health units, Moore has surmised through public health modelling that the province is likely going to have a “difficult” fall and winter.

Read more: COVID-19 booster shots shouldn’t be Canada’s priority, experts say

Of concern is the third or fourth week of September when we many will go indoors particularly students and school staff who will have returned to in-person education.

But, you know, we now have policies that can decrease that risk” Moore said.

“Businesses are putting in policies that are decreasing that risk, and we can together as a community, decrease the risk over the fall in winter.”

 

COVID-19 vaccine clinic: “Vaccines at Night” at the FirstOntario Centre

In an effort to ramp up COVID-19 vaccinations, Hamilton public heath is set to host consecutive late night clinics at FirstOntario Centre this weekend.

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The “Vaccines at Night” clinic will go Friday and Saturday (Aug. 20 and 21) from 6 to 11 p.m. each night with music and prize draws.

The Saturday event will have food and beverage concessions available for those receiving a shot in addition to a public skate.

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