Hamilton’s age 18 to 44 vaccine uptake trails Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Halton Region

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Published July 17, 2021 at 1:32 am

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Beating back the COVID-19 pandemic is not a game — but Hamilton is falling behind on the scoreboard, relative to regional counterparts such as Toronto.

Controlling COVID-19 will require herd immunity. That is said to involve vaccinating about 80 per cent of the general population, including children age 11 and younger who are not yet eligible for a jab. Based on available public health data, Hamilton is farther away from that stretch goal than either Toronto, the Peel Region that covers Mississauga and Brampton, and the Halton Region, which includes Burlington and Oakville.

Vaccination started with older age groups in Ontario and has steadily been opened up to the point that anyone who is at least 12 years old is part of the eligible population, with a minimum four-week wait between first and second doses. It takes another two weeks for the vaccine to reach 95 per cent effectiveness.

That works out to a six-week timeline. That is not that far from the start of the 2021-22 school year in September, when Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, is expecting an uptick in cases.

Many cities’ public health units are seeing second-dose coverage continue to trend upward while first-dose coverage is plateauing. Hamilton is hardly unique in that, but how does it look when first-dose coverage among the age cohorts between 18-year-old young adults and middle-aged 44-year-olds are compared? (One thing to bear in mind is there is some margin of error in tracking young adults.)

These are the age groups who are more likely to want to partake in the public activities such as gyms and indoor dining that are available again in Ontario. Unvaccinated people also account for more than 95 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Hamilton, going back to December of last year.

Of the four population centres compared, Hamilton ranks fourth and last in every group. The drop-off among people aged 18 to 29 seems particularly steep. 

  • Age 18 to 24: Toronto, 91.7; Peel, 91.7; Halton, 76.0; Hamilton, 64.9.
  • Age 25 to 29: Toronto, 85.4; Peel, 81.4; Halton, 68.0; Hamilton, 61.9.
  • Age 30 to 34: Toronto, 75.2; Halton, 73.0; Peel, 71.8; Hamilton, 65.7.
  • Age 35 to 39: Halton, 77.0; Peel, 72.5; Toronto, 72.4; Hamilton, 69.7.
  • Age 40 to 44: Halton, 79.0; Peel, 74.0; Toronto, 72.7; Hamilton, 72.5.

On Monday, Hamilton Public Health Services director of operations Michelle Baird noted there are factors associated with socioeconomic status that can lead to individuals being less likely to be aware of where they can get a vaccine.

Undoubtedly, that can be read into the all of the numbers presented above. But it is the job of local government to identify why uptake is falling short, and provide appropriate funding. A virus, above all, does not care whether someone is rich or poor, or the respective statuses of someone they pass it to who is immuno-compromised. 

Hamilton rates slightly better in second-dose coverage among the same age groups.  

  • Age 18 to 24: Toronto, 62.4; Peel, 52.5; Halton, 43.0; Hamilton, 40.0.
  • Age 25 to 29: Toronto, 61.6; Peel, 47.5; Hamilton, 41.0; Halton, 38.0.
  • Age 30 to 34: Toronto, 56.6; Peel, 45.5; Hamilton, 45.5; Halton, 42.0.
  • Age 35 to 39: Toronto, 55.6; Hamilton, 49.5; Peel, 47.8; Halton, 47.0.
  • Age 40 to 44: Toronto, 57.0; Hamilton, 52.1, Peel, 50.7; Halton, 50.0.

The City of Hamilton has organized a ‘stroll-in’ clinic at Gage Park this weekend. It has also started talking walk-in appointments at pop-in clinics. It has also scheduled a question-and-answer session about vaccines on Tuesday (July 20), with Arabic and Spanish translation available.

Only time will tell how much that outreach improves first-dose uptake in Hamilton, where more than half the city can enjoy a two-dose summer. That is the score that counts, if herd immunity is to ever be a reality in the city.

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