Peel Region's top doctor says he's "increasingly concerned about the divisive rhetoric" over vaccinations as officials try to reach 330,000 eligible residents in the region still not fully immunized against COVID-19.
Of that number, Dr. Lawrence Loh says 215,000 have not taken a single dose of a vaccine at all, while some 115,000 have only taken one. That means a total of 23 per cent of Peel residents aged 12 and over have yet to be fully vaccinated.
"While this may be hard to imagine, we are now in the most turbulent point of the pandemic where we have to thread the needle even more finely," Loh told reporters at a news conference Thursday.
Peel is averaging 37 COVID-19 cases per 100,000, down from 41 last week. But while the situation in hospitals is "relatively stable," Loh says the number of residents who have yet to be fully protected against the virus weighs on him.
The majority of those hospitalized are people unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said.
"It's this number that keeps me up at night knowing that our hospital could yet again see capacity challenges and that lives are at stake if delta finds a way to get in and spin out of control," he said.
Demonstrations outside hospitals 'deplorable': mayor
Crombie had echoed Loh's message, announcing a mobile vaccine clinic called the Vax Van, that will move through the community in the coming months, beginning in Malton on Thursday. In addition, she said, more clinics will run through the fall in locations such as post-secondary schools, malls, places of worship, fairs and parks to bring the vaccine to those who have still not been immunized. Vaccination hubs also launched at 15 schools this week, she said.
Crombie added that the region is studying data and looking at community trends to better understand what those still hesitant might require.
WATCH | Mississauga mayor 'utterly appalled' by hospital protests:
But as for those who have come out to protest vaccines outside hospitals in recent weeks, Crombie said she was "utterly appalled at their actions."
"It's one thing to spread misinformation about the vaccine, but to harass and intimidate healthcare workers and patients as they go into the hospital is simply deplorable," she said.
"Our frontline healthcare workers have showed us all over the last 18 months what real grit and compassion looks like, taking on huge personal risk to care for the most vulnerable... Many of them have taken on an enormous burden of being beside patients as some take their final breaths," said Crombie.
Those against the vaccine or vaccine policies should take their concerns to city hall, Queen's Park or even Parliament Hill, she said.
"But for God's sake, leave our hospitals and our healthcare workers and those patients alone."
The mayor added she strongly supports enforcement officials to take "any action they deem necessary" to keep hospitals and health workers safe.