Publication:

The Hamilton Spectator - 2021-10-14

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SHOTS

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Joanna Frketich is a Hamilton-based reporter covering health for The Spectator. Reach her via email: jfrketich@thespec.com

Hamilton is one of only four public health units in the province with fewer than 80 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Numbers for the most recent three days show a significant decline in doses per day — to 841 on Tuesday compared to 1,454 on the same day a week before. Thanksgiving Monday saw just 169 doses given out despite three clinics running that day — one in Stoney Creek and two in east Hamilton. The dismal turnout compares to 614 shots on Labour Day and 1,393 on the Monday of the August long weekend. Holiday Mondays tend to have fewer numbers but Thanksgiving was among the lowest in the entire vaccine rollout. Only four days have a smaller number of doses administered and all were in December and January when supply was scarce and eligibility tight — this does not include a number of days in February when no shots were given out at all. “There has been a recent decrease in doses being administered,” public health said in a statement. “However, demand has typically been low on statutory holidays and long weekends. Recent trends also have shown that doses administered across the city are generally highest Wednesdays to Fridays.” The best day so far this month was Thursday, Oct. 7, when 2,010 COVID shots were administered. The last time doses were over 2,000 a day was from Sept. 22 to 24 — the first threeday stretch since July. Vaccine passports came into effect in Ontario on Sept. 22, creating a small uptick in vaccination in Hamilton until Oct. 10 when the numbers dropped to 690 doses in a day. The turnout has stayed well below 1,000 for three days in a row, which hasn’t happened since the end of February. Public health says clinic access and supply are ample so neither are the reason for the decline. The city shows no sign of changing course, saying public health remains “committed to the Last Mile Strategy — going to more places where unvaccinated people are and leveraging strong relationships with community organizations.” While Hamilton’s rate has been slowly but steadily increasing to 79 per cent of eligible residents fully vaccinated Tuesday, it has stayed persistently behind the provincial average throughout the rollout which was at 83 per cent. “Public health services continues to focus efforts on those who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 to ensure barriers are removed for accessing a vaccine,” it said. “This includes place-based clinics on-site in apartment buildings ... reaching out to higher-risk workplaces. This hyperlocal approach includes many additional mobile clinics in the weeks ahead.” Hamilton was joined by only Chatham-Kent, Lambton and Renfrew County among public health departments with a rate below 80 per cent. Haldimand-Norfolk was at exactly 80 per cent Tuesday, while Halton had one of the highest rates in the province at 86 per cent and Niagara had 83 per cent. The best vaccination rate in Ontario was 93 per cent in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District, which includes Brockville. “Though the last mile is always the most difficult, each first dose administered means another community member has made the decision to move from the fence to rolling up their sleeve to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community,” said public health. At the same time that the city has one of the lowest vaccination rates, it has the sixth-highest COVID rate in the province. However, the case rate has dropped 18 per cent in the last seven days, shows analysis by epidemiologist Ahmed AlJaishi. Other key metrics have also been dropping over the last two weeks. Daily average new cases were down to 29 on Oct. 11 from 44 on Sept. 27 and 80 on Aug. 31. During that same period, the weekly rate per 100,000 fell to 34 from 52 at the end of September and 94 at the end of August. The city is down to nine active outbreaks, including five schools, one group home, one supported independent living centre, one workplace and one in a nephrology unit at the Charlton Campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare. Scarsin Forecasting had predicted the fourth wave would peak in mid-October at about 120 cases a day, although it came with the caveat that the pandemic was at a point that was very hard to model. “It’s a really a delicate time, a fragile time, a complex time,” medical officer of health Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said on Oct. 4. “We have that Delta variant that is out there and is quite transmissible and can cause quite severe disease. We also have increasing vaccination rates at the same time people have been pretty good about their public health measures ... We are also knowing that people are going to be coming back indoors more and more so that increases the possibility for transmission. It’s a challenging time to make forecasts.”

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