Dr. Ian Arra, medical officer of health, said stronger efforts will be made to reach under-40s, of whom fewer than 70 percent have been vaccinated.
“The vaccine is just not on their radar,” he told the Grey-Bruce board of health at its meeting last Friday.
The health unit released a message encouraging parents to talk to the younger generation. The message will also go out through social media.
Grey County warden Selwyn Hicks suggested reaching out to young people themselves for the best way to spread the word.
The priority comes out of cases of COVID-19 associated with young people and with substance use.
“If it wasn’t for the Delta (variant), we would already have achieved our goal for herd immunity,” Dr. Arra said, as he presented the current vaccine numbers.
As of July 20, 75 percent of those 12 & older in Grey Bruce had the first dose, of whom 65 percent had both shots.
With the Delta variant being more transmissible, however, Dr. Arra told the board that it will take an immunization rate of 85 to 90 percent to avoid wider spread in the fall.
He said that in the COVID surge in Grey Bruce from July 1 to 15, there were 290 cases. Of those who tested positive, 95 percent were not fully vaccinated.
As of Sunday, July 25, there were seven local active cases in hospital, one in a hospital outside Grey-Bruce. This hospitalization number is about the same as reports throughout the pandemic.
Grey-Bruce asked for and received more doses of vaccine, over about the same period of time. Between June 23 and July 15, the percentage of those 12 and older with the second dose rose from about 25 percent to 60 percent.
Dr. Arra commented that to have delayed Stage 3 here because of the COVID upsurge “might be a penalty for those who did the right thing.”
So the area moved to Stage 3 with a strong recommendation that people continue some of the precautions of the previous stage, such as dining outside at restaurants and keeping gatherings under the maximum allowed.
The medical officer of health said recommendation is the least invasive first step, and if it doesn’t succeed then regulation may be needed.
The more transmissible Delta virus saw a rise of reported cases in the younger age group, where large social gatherings are more common and vaccination is less common.
“I have full confidence that the young people transmit the virus innocently,” Dr. Arra said. Still, the situation led to a Public Health warning that it will charge and fine those who host large gatherings.
Another group which had higher case numbers was people who were more transient and poorer. Also, more than 100 people were involved in an outbreak at Saugeen First Nation.
By contrast, workplaces and “regulated settings” showed no increased risk of transmission, in a health unit study.
That means that the recommendations for public spaces are doing what they should to prevent spread, he said.
About 120,000 doses were given at the three mass clinics, Dr. Arra reported. The “hockey hub” clinics wrap up the end of this week.
Pharmacies gave out 35,000 doses and primary health care gave out 15,000, and those are going to continue to provide the vaccines over the long-term, he said. The rest were given in other settings, such as nursing homes.
To make vaccines more accesible for younger people, pop-up clinics are planned for locations such as gyms, clubs/bars, movie theatres, popular parks, hiking trails, skate parks and other locations.
M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald