Chatham-Kent recorded no new COVID cases last Friday as the county approaches a vaccine milestone.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says by the May long weekend he expected half of residents age 16 and up will have gotten their first shot. May 21 there were 43,421 people who’ve gotten their first dose with 2,066 of them having gotten both parts of the vaccine.
There was just one recovery though Friday, leaving the active case count at 35. This mark has hovered stubbornly in the mid-30s for several weeks.
There was also another COVID death last week after a man in his 60s passed away. Colby says the man had significant underlying health problems in addition to a serious case of COVID. Fourteen people have passed away from the virus in Chatham-Kent.
Colby says he’s still seeing concerns over the AstraZeneca vaccine among the population. “When people call to get appointments they often ask what vaccine that they’re going to be offered. Generally speaking when they find out that they’re not getting AstraZeneca they’re quite happy to get anything else that’s going to be served.”
Ontario halted first doses of AstraZeneca earlier this month following an increase in case rate of severe blood clotting. There have been no cases of this blood clot side effect in the more than 2,000 Chatham-Kent residents who got an AstraZeneca shot.
“With all the media coverage on the blood clotting side effect a lot of people are scared about that. And it’s very understandable,” says Colby. “The AstraZeneca vaccine is statistically very safe and anyone that’s had it should not be concerned… it’s just that there’s a preference for the mRNA vaccines (Pfizer & Moderna) that do not have the associated rare blood clotting side effect.”
Friday the province announced they’d be going ahead with second doses of AstraZeneca for the close to one million Ontarians who got that shot. The province is looking to speed up the process by moving the interval between the first and second shots from 12 weeks to 10, as around 55,000 doses are set to expire at the end of May.
“If there are large numbers that are going to expire before people can utilize them, because it’s only being used for second doses now, then I would expect that people would take the initiative and boost earlier,” says Colby. “We don’t like to waste vaccine.”
Colby isn’t too worried about wasting the local AstraZeneca supply. “A very small number of doses are close to expiration,” he says. “But the majority that we have, which isn’t a really large number, have a comfortable expiration date and will not in all likelihood be wasted.”
Colby also commented on the rare instances of people contracting COVID more than two weeks after receiving a vaccine. “That’s entirely predictable based on the clinical trial data for the approval of the vaccines… No vaccine provides perfect protection.”
“The people that are infected subsequent to vaccination generally have a very mild kind of syndrome because the vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing serious disease, hospitalization and death,” says Colby. “If the only thing that the vaccine did was protect everyone from a bad outcome I would still be really happy. I am not concerned about this.”
Colby notes people in these cases “have a much lower potential to spread it to others if they get infected after vaccination.” He also adds that, in these instances “the timeframe… is not compatible with complete protection,” as it takes about a month for the full effect of the vaccine’s first dose to kick in and that hadn’t been achieved yet.
Chatham-Kent’s vaccination effort rolls along this week with a pair of clinics. The Tilbury District Family Health Team hosts one at their offices May 27 and a mobile clinic is scheduled May 30 in Blenheim at the Gincor Trailer Werx parking lot.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent