Hamilton Board of Health considers COVID-19 vaccine passports as city’s uptake lags

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Published August 11, 2021 at 4:24 pm

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Hamilton’s Board of Health unanimously voted in favour of a motion on Wednesday (Aug. 11) calling on the province to consider implementing a COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

The move came as Public Health Services staff met with the Board to provide an update on the pandemic situation in Hamilton and all indications suggest that we are in the early stages of a fourth wave of the virus.

Michelle Baird, Director, Hamilton Public Health Services and Co-Chair of the HCRT Health Promotion and Immunization Working Group, said the fourth wave will make its presence known in the fall with a return to school.

Baird notes that, much like with the increase in cases lately, the Delta COVID-19 variant will fuel the next wave of the pandemic and the majority of cases will be among those not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, including among those under the age of 12 for whom there are currently no approved vaccines.

In order to mitigate the impact of a fourth wave, public health experts continue to urge members of the public to receive a full series of COVID-19 vaccines.

Hamilton, however, has the lowest vaccine rate in Ontario at 67.5 per cent (the provincial average sits at 71.3) and is currently reporting an average of 25 new cases per day, which is among the highest in the GTA.

At Wednesday’s meeting, public health staff noted that social determinants of health are connected to vaccination rates: areas with higher rates of poverty have lower rates of vaccination, as do racialized and refugee communities.

As the fourth wave progresses, the push to obtain higher rates of vaccination is on and the City of Hamilton and its public health staff are working on ways to bring vaccines to areas where uptake has been lower.

The presentation to the Board of Health identified four areas of Hamilton where this has proven most challenging: Lower Central Hamilton, Red Hill/East End, Flamborough and pockets on the mountain along the Linc.

Ward 2 councillor, Jason Farr, questioned whether or not the municipality might have the power to require vaccine passports.

Dr. Ninh Tran, Hamilton’s associate medical officer of health, suggested that’s always an option but enforcement and implementation at the local level is challenging and that a mandate of this nature will have greater impact coming from higher levels of government.

He also noted that a lot of work is underway to engage members of the community who, for a variety of reasons, are not yet vaccinated and find ways to accommodate and inform them.

A motion, put forward by Farr, called on the Province to consider implementing a vaccine mandate that would require residents to have some record of their vaccination status.

In the meantime, the City of Hamilton is launching several mobile vaccination clinics in the coming days and weeks.

“The Hamilton healthcare partners, along with the ‘new’ Provincial GO-VAXX Bus initiative will be bringing the COVID-19 vaccine to even more residents of Hamilton by bringing more mobile clinics to neighbourhoods across the city,” a press release said.

“These clinics will be situated in areas of the city with lower vaccination coverage rates in order to improve access to the vaccine.”

To date, 748,710 doses of COVD-19 vaccine have been administered in Hamilton – with 77.5 per cent of Hamiltonians over the age of 12 receiving a vaccine to date and 68.3 per cent of individuals over the age of 12 completing their vaccine series.

For more information on the City of Hamilton’s vaccine rollout, visit its website.

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