The number of youth who still haven’t received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine remains low in Chatham-Kent.
According to Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, the municipality is still behind the provincial average in vaccination rates among youth aged 12 to 17 years old. Approximately 85 percent of vaccinations in Chatham-Kent in the past month were second doses.
In Ontario, youth aged 12 to 17 have a 60 percent first-dose rate and a full vaccination rate of 20 percent. However, 48 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 have received at least one dose, while 15 percent have received two doses.
“I’m disappointed, to be quite frank about it,” said Colby. “I like to see Chatham-Kent leading rather than play catch up.”
Colby said he wants all school children to get vaccinated as soon as possible as the more transmissible Delta variant becomes more common.
He added he is concerned about unvaccinated students returning to class in September.
“If we can get them vaccinated, that would be much, much better,” said Colby. “The virus has the potential to be easily transmitted in indoor groups of unvaccinated people, and that’s exactly what an in-school experience would represent. The more kids that can get vaccinated, the better, but we have to wait for Health Canada’s approval for doing that.”
According to Colby, the province moved into the third stage of its three-stage reopening plan on July 16, but it may stay there for a while if more people don’t get vaccinated.
“I think everybody is kind of optimistic that if the numbers continue to drop, that we’ll move out of Stage 3 before the end of the summer,” said Colby. “But really, we need a wait-and-see approach with regard to that.”
He said while the restrictions are coming off, this is based on the presumption that vaccination rates will continue.
“We must not look back on that,” said Colby. “We’ve got to continue moving forward and get as many people vaccinated as possible, or else our progress will be jeopardized.”
The province is scheduled to remain in the third stage for at least 21 days and until 80 percent of people 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine and 75 percent have received their second dose. Every public health unit must have at least 70 percent of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated.
Colby said data is showing a trend in low vaccination rates among youth across many municipalities, but he also noted youth who already received their first dose are consistently showing up for their second.
“The group that wants to get vaccinated is proceeding along just fine,” said Colby. “We need to motivate everybody else to get vaccinated. We need to make sure we get those people vaccinated.”
Colby said that judging by the vaccination rates in Chatham-Kent, there are still many unprotected people, meaning many are still vulnerable to the Delta variant coming and creating “tremendous mayhem.”
“I am gratified by the overall low numbers in Ontario and the overall low numbers here in Chatham-Kent – that’s two thumbs up – but the potential for the wheels to fall off is definitely there.
To help get the vaccination rate higher, CK Public Health is hosting a series of walk-in clinics for youth aged 12 to 17 at the Bradley Centre. No appointment is necessary for first doses.
“You can walk into the Bradley Centre and get your first dose at any time,” said Colby. “We still are still doing some first doses but not as many as I’d like to see.”
Colby said there would not be incentives provided to encourage residents to get vaccinated. He added the vaccine is very protective against all of the variants that have been described so far.
As of July 16, in Chatham-Kent, 76 percent of the adult population has received at least one dose, while 59 percent has received both doses.
“This is not the time to sit back and relax. It’s a time to roll up your sleeves and get vaccinated,” said Colby.
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News