For the first time, public health released COVID-19 vaccination data from Hamilton schools and the city’s top doctor says the numbers correspond with areas of the municipality that have either flourished or struggled with cases amid the pandemic.
During an update on Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson suggested the school numbers and locations appear to match up with city census tracts where socioeconomic and religious issues have hindered public health measures to fight the coronavirus.
“The schools continue to reflect what is going on in the community and the level of contact that we’re having with one another and the degree to which we’re following public health measures as we’re moving forward,” Richardson said.
In a snapshot from Oct. 25, schools in the city’s most prosperous areas saw high inoculation rates contrasting with lower-income neighbourhood schools which reported lower student vaccinations.
The data comes from close to 38,000 COVID-19 vaccine eligible students and did not differentiate between those students enrolled in in-person learning or those learning remotely. Public health did not reveal an overall vaccination rate for the students.
A combined average of the 149 schools that revealed vaccination rates to public health showed 63 per cent in two doses and an estimated 71 per cent average with at least a first dose.
Of the 132 public schools reporting — elementary and secondary rates combined — an average of about 65 per cent have had a pair of shots with an estimated 73 per cent having had at least one dose.
No data was available for 23 schools on public health’s list of institutions it’s tracking.
For privacy reasons, coverage for eight schools was not reported in the latest study since the facilities had a very limited number of students enrolled, equal to or less than 10.
The public school reporting the highest vaccination rate is St. Ann in Ancaster with 88.6 per cent of students fully vaccinated, while Notre Dame of Conseil scolaire catholique MonAvenir on Cumberland Avenue in central Hamilton has the lowest rate at just 25 per cent.
Of the 17 private schools that revealed data, Hillfield Strathallan on the Mountain was tops on that list when it comes to fully vaccinated students at 85.4 per cent. Living Hope Christian, also on the Mountain, had the lowest two-shot rate among the non-public student body at 18.2 per cent.
Christian schools make up a big part of the bottom 10 in two-dose vaccination rates, with seven on that list.
Richardson said the data is expected provide valuable information in planning a vaccine program targeting youth as Ontario heads into a last-mile strategy to reach over 90 per cent in two-dose vaccinations.
Richardson noted that whatever the rate is at a particular school doesn’t signify a failure in that institution.
“It is not a reflective at all of the school’s performance,” Richardson said.
“It is rooted in the determinants of health around those schools — in the communities around those schools — in terms of those vaccination rates.”
Over the next five weeks, public health partners will be launching five in-school COVID-19 vaccine clinics at the five secondary schools with lowest coverage rates.
The sessions will be open to Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and Catholic (HWCDSB) students, their families, staff in each school community, plus any eligible students from elementary feeder schools.
Over 82% 12-plus fully vaccinated in Hamilton
Hamilton’s health partners put just over 3,400 vaccine doses into arms on the weekend, with Friday recording the largest intake since Oct. 8 — 1,768 doses.
That number is well above the monthly average of daily doses administered so far for November, which is 1,014 per day.
Vaccination sites saw about a 69 per cent increase in visitors week over week, recording the distribution of 8,914 doses between Nov. 8 and Nov. 14.
November’s average so far is slightly less than what was recorded for all of October — 1,068 shots per day — and farther behind September’s average of 1,488 per day.
As of Monday, 82.4 per cent of eligible Hamiltonians over 12 have been fully vaccinated while 85.7 per cent have had at least a single jab. The city is still behind the provincial average which sees 85.8 per cent fully vaccinated and 89.02 per cent with at least one vaccine dose.
Hamilton is behind 31 other public health units in percentage of two-dose vaccinations in Ontario.