As more pharmacies and primary care doctors begin offering vaccinations in Niagara, the region should be close to reaching the 40 per cent vaccination target by May 6, as set by the province.
That comes as cases of COVID 19 continue to rise in Ontario, exceeding the second wave and continuing to head upwards, with a similar situation in Niagara, says Dr. Mustafa Hirji, acting medical officer of health for the region.
With more than 4,000 new cases daily in Ontario recently, hospitals and intensive care units are becoming overwhelmed, he says, “entering the danger zone” of reaching capacity, while cases can be expected to rise for another couple of weeks before falling as a result of the current shutdown. “It’s definitely a bleak time in terms of hospitals,” he says.
We’re not seeing that yet in Niagara hospitals, rather they are trying to help the GTA by making beds available for patients who have to be moved, he says.
The rising case numbers are affecting Niagara in that contact tracing is becoming more “cursory,” rather than allowing for the thorough investigations Public Health was able to do previously. “We’re not able to follow up on a timely basis,” causing some “frustration” among the public from a sense Public Health isn’t doing its job, although staff are doing their best on the most at-risk situations.
On a more positive note, vaccinations are coming along, with almost 93 per cent of those in the 80 and older age group vaccinated. With the number of cases down in that age group, “the message is that the vaccine really does work.”
Hirji said in the next week about 90 per cent of those in the 75 to 79 group will have received vaccinations, with about 75 per cent of those aged 70 to 75 having received a first dose.
About 21 per cent of Niagara residents have now received at least their first dose of vaccination, Hirji said Monday, with more clinics being planned, and more pharmacies and doctors to help speed up that rate. It could be over 25 per cent this week, he said.
“We’re definitely making good progress getting vaccine out to people.”
If Niagara doesn’t meet the provincial target of 40 per cent by May 6, at a vaccination rate of about 5 per cent a week, the region would likely be only about a week behind.
In addition to bringing the age group at community clinics down to 60 and over, and pharmacies vaccinating those 55 and over, Niagara is planning to vaccinate teachers and school staff this week, and is also targeting agricultural workers for vaccinations.
The vaccination clinic schedule for Niagara has been updated up to May 18, with no more clinics planned in Niagara-on-the-Lake at this time.
Although Hirji says offering clinics for successive days at larger sites is more efficient, there could be second clinics scheduled on some of those days in the smaller areas such as NOTL, where they could stay for a few days as well.
Unlike other regions, he says, “so far we’ve had real success in getting all of our clinics fully booked.”
To book a vaccination at a community clinic, go to Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or phone 1-888-999-6488. To book at a pharmacy, visit covid-19.ontario.ca/vaccine-locations.