Hamilton public health light on details about improving COVID-19 vaccine uptake

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Published July 13, 2021 at 1:13 am

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The City of Hamilton has enough COVID-19 vaccine supply for 75 per cent of its eligible population to complete their vaccine series in the next two weeks.

However, it is unclear the city has a strategy to stimulate vaccine uptake, particularly in East Hamilton neighbourhoods that have lower first-dose and series-completion rates than the rest of the city.

On Monday, Michelle Baird, the director of operations for Hamilton Public Health Services, said Hamilton was in a “pivotal moment” in its “collective fight” against COVID-19, but also said the public health unit is not considering starting the type of door-to-door canvassing other communities in Southern Ontario have initiated to address vaccine hesitancy.

“At this point in time, we aren’t doing door-to-door outside of those who are homebound,” she said.

Hamilton is far from alone in seeing a plateau in first-dose vaccinations, but it has also been identified as a Delta variant hotspot. On Monday, it had reached 75.1 per cent first-dose coverage among its adult population, with 52.9 per cent having received a second dose. The provincial first-dose rate is 79 per cent. Cities such as Mississauga, Brampton and Toronto have extended clinic hours in order to increase uptake, and have also created competitions with other cities.

Ontario is entering Step 3 of its reopening plan on Friday. It will stay in Step 3 until 80 per cent of the eligible population has a first dose, and 75 per cent have completed their vaccine series, with no public health unit under 70 per cent.

Hamilton has three mass vaccination clinics where appointments can be booked through ontario.ca/bookvaccine. Two are in the lower city at FirstOntario Centre (101 York Blvd.) and the Hamilton Health Sciences centre (293 Wellington St. N.) and are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. The other is at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton up on the Mountain (100 West 5th St.), and it is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m..

None of those locations are particularly close to the east end, where the forward sortation areas (FSAs) at ICES data show lower vaccine uptake than other areas of Hamilton.

Baird said the FSAs in the east end with “less than optimal” uptake are a concern, but did not elaborate about any corrective measures.

“We continue to see FSAs with lower vaccination coverage within the city,” she said. “The increase in vaccine coverage across the city overall is encouraging, but we do have concerns with respect to some of our communities. And this remains a priority for us — recognizing, of course, that your decision on whether or not to receive a COVID vaccine is an individual decision, and that the factors contributing to lower coverage in some of these areas truly are complex, with roots in systemic inequities, low socioeconomic status, and some of these have exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“If there’s a barrier there that we can overcome, we’re certainly working toward doing that,” she added.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger urged people to “go to reliable sources to get the best information for you and your family.”

An outdoor vaccination clinic is scheduled to be held at Central Memorial Recreation Centre (93 West Ave. S.) on Tuesday and Wednesday. The city has also posted vaccine ambassadors in parks to speak with people who might hesitant about receiving a vaccine.

The city’s next COVID-19 media briefing will be held on Monday, July 26.

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