Ontario’s vaccination rate slowed over the Labour Day weekend and needs to ramp back up to provide better protection against COVID-19, says chief medical officer Dr. Kieran Moore.
After hitting a recent high of almost 46,000 shots Friday — two days after Premier Doug Ford announced a proof-of-vaccination system for entry into gyms, theatres, indoor restaurant dining and more — the vaccination rate slowed to just over 14,000 on Monday.
Vaccinations were bound to drop off over the long weekend, Moore said during his weekly briefing on Tuesday.
“We are still making slow progress,” he said on COVID-19 shots, noting it will take 60 days at the current pace to get 90 per cent of eligible Ontarians fully vaccinated. He also warned a post-holiday surge in infections is expected within days.
“We hope that this week they’ll come back with a renewed interest in being immunized, especially with the verification process starting Sept. 22,” Moore added. “I think once people realize this virus isn’t going away, (that) the risk will continue throughout the fall and into the winter, that alone should be an incentive to come forward and get protected.”
Moore said the regional health unit in Windsor-Essex has begun imposing selective public health measures — such as earlier bar closings and banning dancing — to stem a high infection rate after several outbreaks.
Ontario now has just over 77 per cent of eligible residents over age 12 with two doses.
The increase in vaccinations has been “almost entirely” in Ontarians aged 18 to 59 since Ford announced that people will need to be at least 14 days past their second dose for entry into a host of non-essential businesses and venues, Moore said.
“The younger the group, the larger the relative increase.”
Public Health Ontario calculates that vaccines have prevented an estimated 63,000 cases of COVID-19 among those 18 and older, and prevented about 4,200 “severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death” in Ontarians over 70.
The science table advising Ford said last week that the province needs to boost full-vaccination levels as quickly as possible to “substantially above” 85 per cent to avoid the potential need for more lockdowns and to avoid overwhelmed hospital intensive care units.
Moore has set an “aspirational goal” of 90 per cent to offset the highly contagious Delta strain spreading mostly in the unvaccinated.
“In the face of the Delta variant, we need to be humble, be flexible and be prepared to react quickly to minimize the transmission until more of us are vaccinated. We have been preparing with all our partners over the summer for the anticipated surge in cases,” Moore added at the briefing.
Ontario reported 564 new cases Tuesday but the seven-day average remains at 747, about six times higher than a year ago. There were 245 people in hospital for COVID-19, including 192 in intensive care with 113 of them on ventilators to breathe — an increase of eight.
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