Peel's top doctor won't rule out vaccine certificate alternative if Ontario doesn't step up with its own

·3 min read
At a press conference today in Brampton City Hall, Peel's medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh announced new measures to curb transmission in the community, and also called on the province to introduce vaccine certificates. (CBC - image credit)
At a press conference today in Brampton City Hall, Peel's medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh announced new measures to curb transmission in the community, and also called on the province to introduce vaccine certificates. (CBC - image credit)

The top doctor for one of Ontario's largest municipalities says he is exploring options for a proof-of-vaccine system if the province doesn't step up with one.

Peel's medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh called on the province to implement a vaccine certificate program at a news conference aimed at curbing local transmission, where he also announced new measures to curb rising rates of COVID-19 in the region amid the pandemic's fourth wave.

"In the short-term, vaccine certificates can help reduce transmission and limit risks for those who are unvaccinated in settings where precautions cannot be maintained persistently," Loh said.

Peel Public Health is actively exploring with other health units what can be done locally on a vaccine certificate program absent of a provincial solution, he added.

Loh noted that the vast majority of severe cases are among those who are not fully vaccinated.

"One thing that is consistent throughout our investigation is individuals who have not received two doses of the vaccine are at the greatest risk of infection and severity, notably hospitalization," he said.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

As part of the new measures announced Wednesday, employers are recommended to review their COVID-19 safety plans to assess if workplace risks could be reduced by implementing a proof of vaccination policy for staff. Other recommendations for employers include screening, masking, remote work, and sick leave.

Event organizers and venues will be directed to contact trace and provide a full list of attendees to Peel Public Health for outbreak investigations. The region will also notify the public if two or more COVID cases are spread at events of 100 people or more.

"This is to reduce the risk to the public by advising contacts in a rapid manner," Loh said.

Outbreaks driven by travel, work, and household contacts

In Brampton, test positivity is at two per cent and in Peel Region more broadly, positivity sits at 2.1 per cent.

Seventy percent of eligible residents in Peel are fully vaccinated, something Loh called a "milestone that should be celebrated."

But he said increased interactions from Step 3 reopening and the Civic Holiday weekend are contributing to more outbreaks, primarily among the unvaccinated.

Returning from international travel, close contact at work and household contact are the main drivers of infections, Loh said.

Only four per cent of recent cases in Peel were among those who are fully vaccinated, but some did not complete the necessary two-week waiting period to build immunity, Loh said. Of the cases among fully vaccinated individuals, all experienced mild illness.

"It's very clear the vaccination is working," Loh said. "It's safe, effective, and it reduces the risk of infection and greatly diminishes the risk of severe outcomes."'

There are 120,000 residents in Peel who are now eligible for their second dose. 260,000 residents are unvaccinated, and 205,000 residents under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Peel Public Health is also finalizing recommendations to ensure safe return to school in September, Loh said.

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