The medical officer of health for the Northwestern Health Unit is sounding a more positive note on vaccine uptake in the region, as its active case count shrank significantly.
Dr. Kit Young Hoon said in a Tuesday press conference she’s optimistic the health unit could eventually hit a vaccination rate of 90 per cent or more, after the anticipated approval in the coming months of COVID-19 vaccines for younger children.
In the meantime, Young Hoon said she was encouraged to see vaccination rates continue to slowly increase. She had expressed concern in September that the NWHU’s full vaccination rate had plateaued in the low 70 per cents.
With 87.5 per cent of NWHU residents 12-plus having received at least a first dose, the health unit has now outpaced the Ontario average of 87.1 per cent, according to provincial data.
With 80.8 per cent fully vaccinated, however, it still lags the provincial figure of 82.4 per cent.
“We’re very happy to see some people are still coming forward for their first and second doses – that’s really good news,” she said Tuesday. “I am hopeful we can reach 85 per cent – I’m pretty positive we can reach 90 per cent once we see the 5-to-11 aged population also eligible to be vaccinated.”
Young Hoon credits the growing number of vaccine policies in workplaces and other settings for at least part of that improvement.
“With the number of vaccine policies coming forward, I think some individuals are re-looking at having that conversation with their health care provider and re-assessing the risk to themselves,” she said.
Those policies continue to roll out. As of Wednesday, proof of vaccination or medical exemption will be required to attend receptions associated with weddings or funerals in an event space, she reminded residents.
On Thursday, the same requirement will apply to coaches, volunteers, and officials for indoor sports.
At the same time, she called the province’s recent move to allow full capacity at indoor sports venues, cinemas, and other settings a “reasonable decision,” given that attendees must provide proof of vaccination.
Data published in late September by Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table found those who are unvaccinated are seven times more likely to catch COVID-19, 25 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 60 times more likely to wind up in the ICU due to the virus.
The NWHU continues to offer vaccine clinics throughout the region. More information is available on its website.
The NWHU will also look at offering COVID-19 vaccines alongside flu shots later in the fall, Young Hoon said.
The health unit reported one new case in the Rainy River region on Tuesday. There were five cases active, all in the Rainy River region.
There was one NWHU resident in hospital with the virus as of Tuesday.