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High-risk in Hamilton receive COVID-19 vaccine boosters as daily cases continue to rise

Hamilton public health has confirmed that primary care providers in the city have been reaching out to vulnerable patients to set up third COVID-19 vaccine shots amid concerns over rising case number across Ontario.

In mid-August, the Ford government approved administering booster shots for transplant recipients, patients with hematological cancers, people who received an anti-CD20 agent as well as residents in long-term care homes, higher-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder-care lodges.

A spokesperson from the city says some patients are getting their shots a minimum of eight weeks out from their second vaccine dose through a community clinic after referrals from specialists or their hospital program.

Read more: Ontario reports 656 new COVID-19 cases, 13 more deaths with some older due to data cleanup

Public health has also been coordinating with local long-term care (LTCH) and retirement home administrators to provide shots to residents a minimum of five months following their second dose either on-site or through a city mobile clinic.

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“Each administrator is setting the schedule for implementation within their respective long-term care home,” spokesperson James Berry told Global News in an email.

“As it relates to residents of higher-risk licensed retirement homes, public health services is working with each site.”

Omar Khan, a University of Toronto professor of biomedical engineering, said the booster doses being administered are the same versions of the two mRNA brands — Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna — initially dispensed to the population.

Khan told Global News that COVID-19 vaccines have yet to be refined with updates like flu shots are every year.

“It just has to go through a bit more of the safety studies to just make sure everything’s okay before it comes through, so it’s not streamlined like it is for the flu vaccine,” said Khan.

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“Coronavirus vaccines are still newer, so it hasn’t benefited from the flu vaccine process.”

So far, the most publicized clinical trials for a third dose are in Israel where results have shown that protection from infection and serious illness has been significantly improved among people aged 60 and older who got a third shot of Pfizer.

Haldimand-Norfolk’s health unit (HNHU) also confirmed that a “small number” of third doses have been provided to date in keeping with the medical eligibility criteria set out by the Province.

“More are scheduled for the coming weeks in both LTCH, high-risk retirement homes and for medically eligible patients,” HNHU epidemiologist Dr. Kate Bishop-Williams told Global News.

“Patients are encouraged to receive a third dose from their physician or specialist when they are able.”

Read more: Ontario government to require COVID-19 vaccine certificates for many indoor public settings

Halton Region confirmed various providers in the community are offering third shots and that mobile teams will soon be offering third doses to residents of long-term care and high-risk retirement homes.

The unit could not confirm if any thirds shots have actually been administered in Halton as of Sept.1.

Meanwhile, Niagara Region public health says 295 third doses have been given to Niagara residents as of Sept. 1 from multiple providers.

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As of Tuesday, Hamilton was 31 out of 34 public health units in second dose distribution with only 73 per cent of those eligible 12-plus having been fully vaccinated. That’s behind Ontario’s 76.4-per cent average.

The city’s average number of shots administered daily in the month of August was just over 1,600 in Hamilton — a marked decrease from July when it was just over 6,000 a day.

Haldimand-Norfolk is last in second doses in Ontario with just 70 per cent of its residents having completed a series of shots as of Aug. 31.

Ontario modelling suggests ICUs could be overwhelmed by October if more opens up

In social media posts on Wednesday afternoon, the province’s COVID-19 science table suggested that the province’s intensive care units (ICUs) could be “overwhelmed” if more destinations open up now, and if vaccination rates stay where they are.

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“ICUs could get overwhelmed by October — beyond what we saw in the third wave back in April and early May,” the group suggested on Twitter.

Last week, the scientific director for the table told Global News that the provincial models suggest about nine out of 10 people not vaccinated will become infected with the Delta variant in the next six to 12 months.

“Whether it’s six or 12, I can’t tell you. It depends on the behaviour of people,” said Dr. Peter Juni.

“This virus is eventually finding everybody. Therefore, it’s so important to get vaccinated. You break the problems of the virus by getting vaccinated.”

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The new modelling comes the same day the Ford government revealed a vaccination certificate program applicable to indoor public settings such as restaurants, gyms and nightclubs.

As of Sept. 22, Ontario residents will need to show proof of full vaccination (having received two doses at least 14 days before entry) along with photo ID in order to access some environments. A simpler QR code-based application for residents and business operators is expected to follow in October.

Read more: Several Ontario hospitals jointly enact mandatory COVID vaccine policy; extends to new hires

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch told Global News that the implementation of an Ontario vaccine certificate is going to help “create safer indoor spaces and keep businesses open” but suggests a more broad-based federal program would be more efficient than relying on a provincial system.

“So as long as there are Canadian standards and when you’re from Alberta and you’re going over to Quebec, they will totally see what you have and accept it and there won’t be any issues,” Bogoch said.

“That’s the key point, it’s ideal if we all are singing from the same songbook here.”

Hamilton reports over 100 new COVID-19 cases for the first time since late May

Hamilton is seeing COVID-19 case numbers similar to those seen at the end of May prior to the province exiting the third wave of the pandemic and into the Ford government’s reopening plan in June.

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On Wednesday, the city reported over 100 new COVID-19 cases day over day — a number not seen since May 20, when public health revealed 117 cases in its daily report.

Active cases are up to 581 as of Sept. 1, comparable to the 544 the city recorded on May 31. Over 64 per cent of active cases are with people aged between 20 and 59.

There are 44 COVID patients in Hamilton hospitals which dropped by five overnight, however, patients in intensive care units (ICUs) went up by two.

Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joe’s had almost identical numbers three months ago reporting 47 patients and 22 in ICUs, but much less than the 97 admissions treated for COVID six months ago at the end of March.

Read more: 2 Hamilton COVID-19 testing centres expand operations due to increasing demands

The city’s positivity rate was up again week over week, moving from the 6.50 per cent reported last Wednesday to 7.10 per cent. Hamilton is number two in Ontario — behind Windsor-Essex — with tests coming back positive from labs.

Three more outbreaks were declared in the city over the last 24 hours at Body Pro Gym on the Mountain, Jobi Construction in central Hamilton and Today’s Family Home Child Care in Stoney Creek. All three locations posted three cases each.

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Hamilton has 89 cases amid 18 ongoing outbreaks. Thirty-five of the infections are tied to workplace surges.

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