Jeff Green | Jul 21, 2021

(Note - this article has been updated from the article published in the July 22 print edition of the Frontenac News with information from a media call with Public Health on July 22)

By the end of last week, the trends were clear in Kingston Frontenac Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) , and throughout the Province of Ontario as well. The vaccination program is slowing.

“We have give $278,000 vaccinations, which is tremendous,” said Dr. Hugh Guan, interim medical officer of health for the region on July 15, “but in recent weeks the 1st dose rate has been slowing quite a bit. We have the reverse of what we saw earlier, we have more supply than the demand requires. It's really about finding people now.”

He said that the transition away from the two largest mass clinics, originally envisioned for late September, was being pushed forward (it was later announced that the Invista Centre and Strathcona Centre clinics will close on August 2)

“We will be working more with our primary care and pharmacy partners as well as mobile options and smaller mass clinics as we transition to a new model to get at that last 20% of the population,” he said.

A walk-in clinic was held early this week at the Clar-Mil Hall in Plevna, the Famly Health Team held a clinic at the fire hall in Sharbot Lake for their patients, and a walk-in clinic is set for Thursday (July 22) at the Harrowsmith Free Methodist Church. First and second doses for anyone over 18 are now available throughout the region, with a 28 day gap between doses being the only extra requirement.

Throughout the pandemic, the United Kingdom and the United States have been about 6 weeks ahead of Canada. Six weeks ago, the case rate was still high in Canada but very low in both the US and UK. Now, the case rate has slowed in Canada but picked up in both of the other countries, suggesting a fourth wave could hit Canada in mid-September.

There was only 1 active cases in KFL&A on Thursday, (July 22) Unfortunately that person is  in the Intensive Care Unit in hospital, on a ventilator.  Sadly, while the case rate has slowed, there has been more death in the region over the last two weeks that at any time during the pandemic. There are now 6 deaths attributed to COVID. There were only three as recently as the end of June.

Dr. Guan said that it is difficult to attribute the rise in the death rate locally to a specific cause. 

"It is difficult to tease out the cause. It could be related to the new variant, or coincidence. It underlines, however, how this disease remains very serious for those who are vulnerable, I know I sound like a broken record, but the best thing is for as many people as possible to get vaccinated," said Dr. Guan, during a media call on July 22.

When asked what vaccination rate among those over 12 would be necessary to avoid a 4th wave in Canada, Dr. Guan said “that is something that is being talked about right now on the provincial and national level. We would like to hit 100% but that is not possible. The first dose rate is slowing and the second dose rate is catching up, which is good for those getting a second dose, but we still are doing several hundred first doses each day. 85% is a really good target. I would say it will require a lot of outreach, and everyone plays a role in this, encouraging friends and family who have not been vaccinated to go to a walk-in clinics.”

He said that he thinks even 90% is possible, but it will take a lot of work to get there, noting that on the provincial level, Dr. Moore has identified 90% as the target for Ontario. 

As of Thursday, 80.8% of the KFL&A population had received on dose, and 65.3% had received both doses. To illustrate how quickly the gap between the 1st and 2nd dose rates is narrowing, almost ten times as many second dose shots (13.566) have been delivered over the past week in the region than 1st dose shots (1,592)

The least vaccinated cohorts, 25 to 35 year olds, have seen their rates go up a few percentage points over the last three weeks. 63% have now had a 1st dose and almost 44.9% have had two doses. That age range is the only one in the region with a 1st dose vaccination rate under 70%.

Dr. Guan said that while the numbers of people seeking a first dose has slowed to a "trickle" over the last month, "it has remained steady, it is not dropping, we are still seeing a few hundred people each day. At this rate it will take a while, but we can get to 85% or 90%, it will just take some time.

If the current first dose vaccination rate keeps up (about 0.2% per day over the last 10 days) the region would reach 85% of the 12 and over population by the 7th of August and 90% by early September.

Achieving a 75% second dose rate, which is the provincial target for emerging from stage 3 re-opening, could happen by the August long weekend if current trends continue. About 1% of eligible KFL&A residents have been receiving a second dose each day over the last ten days.

It should be noted that these statistics are based on the eligible population. About 13% of the population is under 12 years old, and while that group have been less likely than other groups to develop symptoms, they can pass the virus on to older people who are not vaccination.

Taking the entire population into account, the vaccination rate in both KFL&A and Ontario as whole, is about 68% for first dose, and 52% for second dose.

The rate in the United Kingdom is 69.5% first dose and 54% second dose, the case rate is climbing rapidly. Hospitalization rates in the UK due to COVID remain low however, but have increased over the last week, particularly in England.

Vaccination rates in KFL&A remain 1% to 2% higher than the rates in Ontario as a whole.

Also looking forward to September, Dr. Guan said that Public is working with their partners to provide a second dose to as many secondary and post-secondary school students before school starts up again in September.

"The good news is that we have plenty of supply of Pfiser and Moderna  vaccine in KFL&A" he said.

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