Dr. Ian Arra updates Bruce County council on COVID vaccine

·3 min read

GREY-BRUCE – Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health for Grey-Bruce, told county council at its April 1 meeting that phase one vaccinations have almost all been completed – or, to be more exact, almost all people in the long-term care sector have been offered the vaccine, with most residents being vaccinated.

Vaccine has been offered to First Nations, with over 70 per cent in Nawash and 40 per cent in Saugeen vaccinated.

The Grey-Bruce area is actually in phase two as far as age groups are concerned, with clinics now accepting people aged 70 and over. Arra noted Grey-Bruce is ahead of the provincial plan, with 16 per cent of the population vaccinated versus 13 per cent, as of the previous Sunday.

He noted that fear had been expressed that if the area didn’t receive more vaccine, phase one could not be completed by the end of March. The province promptly made more vaccine available.

The area is using a hybrid model for phase two, with the provincial booking system for the different age groups and the health unit looking after target groups.

Arra spoke to county council prior to the provincial announcement about the province-wide lockdown, but said the lockdown decision was based on input from medical officers of health.

County Coun. Steve Hammell, mayor of Arran-Elderslie, asked about the amount of vaccine “sitting in freezers across Ontario.”

Arra replied that he was not aware of any such stockpiles.

“We don’t want doses of vaccine in freezers,” he said, noting vaccine is deployed to where it’s needed, which is exactly what happened when “we raised the flag we need more and our shipments increased.”

County Coun. Luke Charbonneau, mayor of Saugeen Shores, asked why we’re entering a lockdown right now.

The answer from the medical officer of health was that there’s “a seasonality to viruses and pandemics… we know from last year numbers tapered down with the warm weather.” By summer, Arra anticipates the vaccine rollout will have done its job.

Said Arra, “If there were no variant, I would say the third wave would mimic the first… but it will be the last one.”

He and Charbonneau spoke of the “light at the end of the tunnel” and described the three Ws – wash your hands, watch your distance and wear your mask – as “the passport to our safety” for the time being.

Charbonneau expressed his appreciation to Arra for his “strong leadership” throughout the pandemic.

County Coun. Chris Peabody, mayor of Brockton, asked Arra to thank all public health staff regarding the vaccination clinics.

“We’re narrowing in on 20 per cent (of the population vaccinated),” he said.

Peabody asked about the effectiveness of various types of masks including the N-95 for municipal staff dealing with the public, especially in high-risk situations such as daycare.

Arra said that while “the variants are more efficient at transmission,” public health is still recommending N-95 masks for health-care personnel and surgical masks for others, the general rule being “the more layers, the better.”

County Coun. Anne Eadie, mayor of Kincardine, noted she’d tried wearing two surgical masks at a time without a problem, but adding a cloth one made breathing difficult.

Arra agreed that “breathability is an issue with three layers.” As for the N-95, it does provide “superior protection but it’s not called for unless an aerosol procedure such as dental cleaning” is being done. He described the N-95 as “bulky” and said it puts pressure on the face.

“Usually people use them for only an hour… I can’t see daycare people using them for two or more hours,” he said.

In other words, use the masks recommended by the province.

Eadie said if everyone wore masks, the safer we’d all be, and told Arra she appreciated “all your expertise.”

Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times