GREY-BRUCE – Members of the Grey Bruce board of health expressed some ideas on how to help encourage people to get vaccinated.
After hearing the report from the medical officer of health, Dr. Ian Arra, at the July 23 meeting, the board members had the opportunity to ask questions and provide input.
Selwyn Hicks, who’s the Grey County warden and deputy mayor of Hanover, offered his assistance in using the Launch Pad as a way of reaching out to a younger demographic where a higher percentage of people remain unvaccinated. The Launch Pad is a facility that focuses on career and skills development for young people. Located in Hanover, it serves the entire region.
Arra said he intends to take Hicks up on the offer.
Arra continued to say that “vaccination is our way out” of the current surge in cases locally.
That surge involves the highly transmissible delta variant. Health unit data indicates “we can keep a lid on it” through contact management.
Arra said that while the experience in other areas indicates a Delta-variant surge takes about 10 weeks to run its course, the experience in Grey-Bruce may be different.
The vast majority of cases continue to be among unvaccinated people. While herd immunity with the original virus has already been achieved with 75 per cent of people vaccinated, the Delta variant “is a different pathogen,” said Arra. Herd immunity for the Delta variant is 90 per cent.
He reiterated what he’s been telling the public, that the virus is being spread mostly among younger, unvaccinated people, through private gatherings. He stressed “the workplace situation remains unchanged.” The virus is not being spread in workplaces, and it’s not being spread at organized events.
Arra remains hopeful that if high-risk contacts continue to be followed within 24 hours, the local numbers will come down.
As mass vaccination clinics wind down – they’ve done their job – there will be a shift to vaccination through targeted clinics as well as pharmacies and medical offices.
The focus now is on getting people fully vaccinated with their second shots. Then the target group will be those who are vaccine-hesitant.
Board member Helen-Claire Tingling said communications from the health unit “are not targeting young people.” Incentives are needed that target this age group.
Arra responded by saying the health unit is working with the Owen Sound Attack. The focus will be on gyms, movie theatres and hockey games. He stated “no stone would remain unturned” in reaching out to younger people, including working with liquor stores and marijuana stores.
Drew Ferguson, communications, said social media will be used for “peer-to-peer” contact.
Hicks had a number of other ideas, in addition to the Launch Pad.
Brockton Mayor Chris Peabody expressed concern over the return to school, a key reason Arra said he wants the fourth wave “tamped down” by fall.
Peabody said he wasn’t confident about information that indicates traditional measures (of cleaning and disinfecting) are effective in preventing the spread of the virus, and added that he wanted to ensure schools have proper ventilation.
Hicks referred to another public health crisis in telling board members that Grey County council has given a “call for action” regarding the opioid crisis.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times