'Hot spot' COVID-19 areas in Windsor-Essex also have low vaccination rate

·4 min read
Downtown Windsor has the highest COVID-19 rate in the city, but one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
Downtown Windsor has the highest COVID-19 rate in the city, but one of the lowest vaccination rates in the region. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Downtown Windsor has the highest rate of COVID-19 in the city, yet it's also one of the least vaccinated areas.

And it's not the only city "hot spot" identified by the province with that same trend: high COVID-19 rates, lower socio-economic status and low vaccination rates.

Windsor's city centre, with postal code N9A, is one of seven other postal code areas the province pinpointed in Windsor-Essex as being the hardest hit by COVID-19. Those hot spots are now being prioritized by the province for vaccinations for people aged 50 and older as the government works to get ahead of the third wave.

Vaccination data also shows that in those regions, many have also been left unvaccinated.

In Windsor, the "hot spot" postal codes include areas in South Central Windsor, Walkerville and East Windsor, downtown, Sandwich Towne and University of Windsor.

The remaining two are in Kingsville and Leamington neighbourhoods, areas that have had high case counts due to migrant workers.

In the downtown Windsor,"hot spot," the COVID-19 case rate is 3.15 per cent per 100 people, according to data from ICES — an independent research institute that studies Ontario health issues. That is the highest rate in the city.

This graphic compares the vaccination rate for people 60 and older in Windsor-Essex to those living in the downtown.

The percentage of people vaccinated per age group in all of Windsor-Essex compared to those vaccinated in downtown Windsor.
The percentage of people vaccinated per age group in all of Windsor-Essex compared to those vaccinated in downtown Windsor.(CBC News Graphics)

"It's not completely surprising," said Rino Bortolin, city councillor of Ward 3, which covers a portion of the downtown.

Bortolin said its more likely that people living in the city centre are likely of low socioeconomic status, meaning they are most likely employed in frontline jobs that prevent them from working from home.

"We know that if you correlate [case rate] with both incomes and people's socioeconomic status then there would be a definite correlation there," Bortolin said.

And data based on the City of Toronto, has shown that to be true, specifically with the spread of variants of concern.

Additionally, Bortolin said the population in his ward is quite diverse and that might mean there are language barriers to accessing health and vaccination information.

According to 2016 Statistics Canada census data, the downtown and other areas identified as "hot zones" by the province are home to a majority of the region's visible minorities, including those who are Chinese, Black and Arab.

The downtown in particular is one that has dealt with a major COVID-19 outbreak in people experiencing homelessness from the Downtown Mission and another outbreak that shut down Frank W. Begley Public School.

The red locators show the postal codes with the lowest vaccination rates, while the green locators indicate the postal codes with the highest vaccination rates.
The red locators show the postal codes with the lowest vaccination rates, while the green locators indicate the postal codes with the highest vaccination rates. (CBC News Graphics)

"If you go back and look at all the other social determinants of health, these neighbourhoods were probably going to score quite low on all those categories," Bortolin said.

Despite having the highest case rate in the city, it is among those areas with the lowest vaccination rate, sitting at 12.5 per cent.

Affluent neighbourhoods have higher vaccination rate

In contrast, data shows that areas with the highest vaccination rates for all ages include those that are more affluent, such as postal codes in Riverside, Tecumseh and Elmstead and LaSalle.

"They have both the means, access to the information, they have the ability, they have the time off work, everything lines up for them to be able to go out, search out the information, put their names on the list," said Bortolin.

Another factor outside of economics that might explain the high vaccination rates is these areas also have a high proportion of the region's seniors, specifically those who are aged 70 and older. That's a group that has been prioritized in Phase 1 of the vaccine rollout.

These are the seven postal code regions identified in Windsor-Essex that will be prioritized for the vaccine.
These are the seven postal code regions identified in Windsor-Essex that will be prioritized for the vaccine. (CBC News Graphics )

As well, according to 2016 Statistics Canada data, these areas are where a large majority of people with jobs in healthcare are living.

Frontline healthcare workers were also prioritized for a COVID-19 vaccine in phase 1 of the rollout.