“It’s not too late and sooner is better”
With two weeks to go before students head back to school, 52 per cent of Lambton students are fully immunized against COVID-19.
Lambton Public Health officials say 66 per cent of students have had one dose, which provides some protection against the Delta variant.
But that lags behind the rest of the province, where 76 per cent have had one dose and 60 per cent of teens between 12 and 17 have already had two doses. In nearby London-Middlesex, 78 per cent of teens are vaxed to the max. And in Chatham-Kent – where public health officials have voiced concern about low vaccination rates, just 45 per cent of students have been double vaccinated.
Kevin Churchill, manager of family health at LPH, started calling on families to have students vaccinated in late July so they would be fully protected and perhaps stave off school closures which plagued the province in the last two pandemic school years.
Churchill says Lambton’s student vaccination rate is “not bad, but we certainly could do better – we need to do better to provide a better level of protection for people going back to school.”
Churchill says it is widely accepted that less than 10 per cent of people will refuse a vaccine. Lambton may be lagging behind provincial vaccination rates because families are still on vacation and not thinking about school yet.
“Parents may be more comfortable with getting the vaccine going to the doctor” to ask questions about the vaccine, says Churchill. Public health is working to have vaccines delivered by family doctors by September.
“We’re working on is setting up the physician’s offices to be able to get the vaccine in office. So somebody is more comfortable, that has a lot of questions there will be family doctors offering vaccine in September,” says Churchill.
Public health is also working on bringing the vaccines right to the school buildings. Plans are in the works for clinics in high schools and at Lambton College.
In the last week of July, Ontario averaged giving over 103,000 vaccines a day. This week, about 38,800 people are vaccinated daily.
Provincial officials recognize it is going to be tough to get the last 20 to 30 per cent of the people eligible fully vaccinated. Tuesday, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kerian Moore, said the province is asking health units to focus on mobile clinics and community pop-up clinics to get the needles into arms. The provincial vaccine call in centre has also been calling residents who have booked and missed their second dose to rebook the shot.
About 110,000 people have signed up again that way.
“A key component of Ontario’s last mile strategy is bringing the vaccines directly to people, where they are located,” says Moore in a news release.
Churchill adds public health is hoping to make it as easy as possible for people to get a vaccine in the next couple of weeks even though vaccination rates have slowed significantly across the province.
He expects to see vaccination numbers “creep up” as school draws closer and the number of cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the fourth wave of the pandemic.
“It’s not too late and sooner is better,” he says.
“People need to think about what they enjoyed; returning to a lot of activities… since early July and August. If we want to continue to enjoy those things, certainly as we head into the fall into September having as many people as possible fully vaccinated is absolutely the key to maintaining those things that we enjoy and are so important for kids,” he says.