Haldimand-Norfolk still hasn’t hit 70 per cent target for COVID-19 vaccinations

·3 min read

One week ago, Haldimand-Norfolk was the only health unit in the province to not have 70 per cent of eligible residents vaccinated against COVID-19.

One week later, that is still the case.

In fact, the double-vaccinated population only rose by one per cent — 68.7 to 69.7 — over the past seven days, meaning there are still roughly 25,000 people aged 12 and up who are eligible but have thus far not received the shot.

Vaccine task force lead Sarah Page said Monday she expects to clear the 70 per cent threshold “by the end of the week,” but at this rate, it would take more than five months to get 90 per cent of the population double-dosed. The health unit administered 1,594 shots last week, the lowest weekly total since late February.

That number, said interim medical officer of health Dr. Alex Hukowich, is “not as high as perhaps we’d like, but certainly better than nothing.”

“Every one of those people who gets immunized, they reduce the risk for themselves of being seriously ill or ill at all, or becoming a source of infection for someone else,” he said.

Demand for vaccines has been at a virtual standstill for weeks in Haldimand-Norfolk, even as the case count creeps up again.

While no residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, epidemiologist Kate Bishop-Williams said the Delta variant has sent roughly six per cent of local COVID-19 patients to hospital in recent months, which is a higher proportion when compared to the original strain of the virus.

Hukowich said the 38 new cases reported over the past two weeks were largely among the unvaccinated and often clustered within the same households. “Less than three per cent of our new cases have been in people who have been fully immunized,” he said, a sign of the “very, very high efficacy rate” of vaccines.

Living in a sparsely populated rural area reduces the risk of contracting the virus, which Hukowich said could be a factor in some residents feeling they can skip the shots.

He would like to see the vaccine available “on every street corner” so that it is “exceedingly convenient” for those who are not opposed to immunization but “for whatever reason” remain unvaccinated.

Page said it is not practical to go door to door in Haldimand-Norfolk’s more rural areas, adding the health unit continues to work with social-service agencies and family doctors to ensure no one is missed.

“We’re not at the point of getting an ice cream truck and going street to street,” she said.

The provincial GO-VAXX bus will make stops at fall fairs in Caledonia and Simcoe and the coming weeks will see another round of evening vaccine clinics at rural fire halls in Selkirk, Teeterville, Hagersville and Fairground.

All clinics accept walk-ins.

Page invited anyone eligible who has not received a vaccine to “step up” and “think as a community” to end the pandemic and keep friends and loved ones safe.

Residents can call the health unit’s vaccine line at 519-427-5903 to arrange for transportation to a clinic or plan ahead to get the shot in a private room if they need more time.

Page said health-care workers will even bring the vaccines to residents’ homes if needed.

“We encourage anyone who needs help to get that vaccination to please call us,” she said.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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