Hamilton mades headway toward 70 per cent for second COVID-19 doses, despite a slow week

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Published July 30, 2021 at 11:52 pm

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The City of Hamilton had its slowest week for COVID-19 vaccinations in more than four months, but it might be rolling up its sleeves just enough to reach the province’s minimum target for leaving Step 3.

On Monday, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s chief medical officer of health, said the city was facing a “call to arms” to increase COVID-19 vaccinations with the start of the school year just six weeks away. Ultimately, though, the city is reporting that it administered 14,775 doses of COVID-19 vaccine this week. That was the lowest in any seven-day period since March 13 to 19, when only older adults were eligible for a jab. It was also a nearly 50-per-cent drop from the week prior, but that was somewhat expected since so many people have both doses. 

That brings the city to 76.3 per cent first-dose coverage as of Friday afternoon, and 64.9 for second doses among its eligible population aged 12 and over. 

The second total is the one that is relevant to an expanded reopening, which is decided by the Ontario government even though some public health precincts have no cases.The first is pegged more to limiting the strain — on individuals and the healthcare system alike — from an anticipated fourth wave in the fall. A fourth wave is likely since the reproductive number in seven of Canada’s 10 provinces is 1.00 or higher.

Two weeks ago, when the province entered Step 3 of the reopening plan, the Ontario government set out a three-pronged criteria for moving on to the next phase and further loosening COVID-19 restrictions. The current protocols will be in place until at least Aug. 6. The benchmarks were:

  • 80 per cent first-dose coverage provincewide among the eligible population
  • 75 per cent second-dose coverage provincewide
  • 70 per cent second-dose coverage for all 34 public health units across Ontario. 
  • Other key indicators need to be stable.

The entire province met the first target on Thursday. As for the second, the best available volunteer-compiled info suggests Ontario is at 70 per cent for second doses, second-highest of any province.

On the city’s end, in spite of the drop in doses administered in each of the past three weeks, Hamilton has a chance of reaching 70 per cent in second doses. Second-dose coverage among the adult population went from 62.8 per cent to 66.3 over the past seven days. Among youths 12 to 17, second-dose coverage increased from 40.1 to 46.9.  

A similar jump and perhaps a little bit more might get Hamilton from 64.9 to 70.0, but next week is also a short week with a holiday Monday. One of the city’s three large-scale clinics will also close next week.

However, limiting the fourth wave will require resuscitating the first-dose campaign. Dr. Richardson has spoken of developing “new channels of outreach” in order to connect with people who have not received a vaccine.

Hamilton’s first-dose coverage among adults inched from 76.4 per cent to 77.0 this week. In the youth group, it went from 64.8 to 67.2 as the start of the school year looms in all four Hamilton public school boards. 

(Ontario is not allowing children to be vaccinated until they have had their 12th birthday. Alberta and British Columbia are now allowing children who will be 12 by Dec. 31 to begin their vaccine series so they have a better chance of building antibody protection by the start of, or early, in the school year.)

The vaccine uptake in Hamilton has continued to be lower among adults between age 18 and 44. Nearby Toronto, Halton Region and Peel Region have generally been more successful at vaccine uptake with younger adults under the age of 45.  

Hamilton will have some work to do to reach the people who have not started their vaccine series. However, getting 70 per cent likely represents a higher priority for both Hamilton Public Health Services and a populace that has been cooped up for almost 17 months.

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