Ontario experiencing seventh wave with BA.5 variant

·4 min read

Ontario's chief medical officer says the province is in the midst of it's seventh wave with the Omicron BA.5 variant running rampant.

Throughout the province test positivity is above ten percent and wastewater signals have risen in most regions.

Dr. Kieran Moore said in interviews that while things are expected to get worse before levelling out, he's confident the province's healthcare system can handle it.

"So far I'm very pleased that it hasn't had a significant impact on our health system and that we're absolutely able to cope with current numbers," Dr. Moore said on Thursday.

"It will get a little worse over the coming week or ten days and then decrease, that's our expectation."

While Dr. Moore says the healthcare system can shoulder this coming wave, a number of hospitals have recently been feeling the pressure from staff shortages.

Many Ontario hospitals, particularly those in smaller communities as nearby as Perth, have been forced to entirely close their ER at times in recent weeks, and some expect closures going forward.

Over the Canada Day long weekend, KHSC also announced the limitation of its Urgent Care Centre hours due to staffing shortages.

"It was a difficult decision, but we must reduce hours this weekend in our Urgent Care Centre so that we can consolidate physicians and staff in the Emergency Department (ED) at our KGH site over the long-weekend,” said President and CEO, Dr. David Pichora in a release last week.

“As the trauma centre for Southeastern Ontario, we must ensure we have the resources in the ED at KGH to meet the needs of the sickest people in our region, such as those who have suffered a stroke, heart-attack or traumatic injuries.”

While KHSC has experienced these shortages, KFL&A Medical Officer of Health Dr. Piotr Oglaza says local surveillance data including COVID hospitalizations remain stable.

Dr. Oglaza said while they continue to keep an eye on the trends around the province they do feel the region is in a good position.

He said the region has roughly 10% higher 3rd vaccine dose uptake than the provincial average, however said if anything Kingston public health is hoping to see more young people getting their third dose, with uptake in the 18-24 range being much lower than other age groups.

"So we have almost half of the population that could still get benefit from the third dose in that age group," Dr. Oglaza said.

"And knowing that we have another wave potentially of the BA-5 coming, getting that third dose is a very reasonable thing to do."

While there have been some calls to open fourth doses to all adults, Dr. Oglaza said Kingston will adopt that when recommended but didn't express the urgency some in the province have.

"That's something that we have in mind in terms of the overall strategy," Dr. Oglaza said.

"But we have to also keep in mind if someone is in their 30s and 40s their baseline risk of severe COVID need for hospitalization with 2 or 3 doses in their system is much lower."

Some throughout the province have expressed concern that health centers will have to throw out vaccine doses come fall if the eligibility for a fourth dose doesn't expand soon.

While the Ministry of Health did not directly respond to questions of whether there is any concern of doses expiring, or whether there would be a sense of urgency to avoid that, a representative said they take a number of steps to minimize waste of vaccines.

"With the vaccine program progressing, several factors may lead to unused dosages. Opening a vial to vaccinate one or a small number of individuals will be necessary to support vaccination efforts. This is especially important where a vial is reaching its "must use by" date," said W.D Lighthall, media relations for the Ontario Ministry of Health.

"Efforts to reduce unused vaccines include:

• Encouraging people to get the doses they are eligible for.

• Limiting the expiry of closed vials through proper inventory management and storage and handling.

• Providing support to other provinces and territories experiencing inventory challenges when possible. The Ministry also continues to work closely with PHU partners to share doses, when possible, across PHUs to minimize expiry of doses.

• Continuing to explore opportunities to donate additional vaccine doses.

• Continuing to ask manufacturers to provide us with different vial sizes to accommodate one or a small number of individuals to help reduce the amount of unused vaccine doses."

Right now fourth doses are only available to those over 60 and select vulnerable groups.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News

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