Dr. Colby hoping to change the minds of anti-vaxxers

Rick Walker a Maintenance Supervisor at Riverview Gardens Long-Term Care Home in Chatham was the first health care worker in Chatham-Kent to get vaccinated at the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the John Bradley Convention Centre. February 23, 2021. (Photo submitted by CKHA)

The top doctor in Chatham-Kent is perplexed as to why some people have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Chatham Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby says so-called “anti-vaxxers” only make up about three per cent of the population, but they’re very vocal. The problem is, he said, is that they don’t have scientific facts to support their beliefs. Colby said health professionals have tried everything to get anti-vaxxers and those who are hesitant about getting vaccinated in general to change their minds, but so far nothing has worked. Colby added public messaging strategies have changed several times without any measurable success, but public health will keep trying to break through.

He also hopes that the half of the local long term care workers who haven’t gotten their shot yet go out and get the vaccine to keep themselves and others healthy. Colby reported last week that half of that group either hasn’t gotten around to it or has outright refused the COVID-19 vaccine for whatever reason.

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink,” he said. “I don’t tolerate people who don’t isolate when they’re told to isolate and I hit them with a Section 22 order very rapidly, which involves a $5,000 a day fine if they’re caught violating their isolation precautions. That settles people down very, very quickly.”

Nearly 19,000 people in Chatham-Kent have received a COVID-19 vaccine and Colby added 85 per cent of the 80 and older age group has been vaccinated. The province is aiming for a total between 70 and 80 per cent of the population getting their COVID-19 shots to get “herd immunity,” the portion required to prevent the spread of the virus. He insists the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and they’ve had five times the study subjects than other vaccines that get approved for use because the virus is so common.

Dr. Colby still has not been told when pharmacies in Chatham-Kent will begin the vaccination program. He does say that participating pharmacies in Chatham-Kent will not turn away anyone eligible from outside of the jurisdiction wanting a vaccine.

Meanwhile, the head of the group in charge of voluntary asymptomatic COVID-19 testing in local schools said the turnout has been low at the two recent clinics in Sarnia and Chatham. Chatham-Kent Lambton Administrative School Services General Manager Kent Orr said only 100 people participated in Sarnia and 60 took part in the Chatham clinic, adding the five week program will be extended to get staff and students tested. The schedule for more test locations in Chatham-Kent was posted on Friday. The next clinic is in Pain Court on April 3. Click here to view the new dates.

On Thursday, the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit reported four new cases of the virus and eight resolved cases to drop the number of total active cases down to 104. The number of local people in the hospital with COVID-19 has increased by one to two in total. Dr. Colby also said the three small local outbreaks continue. He said the outbreak at an unidentified place of worship is now up to six cases from the original three, there are still five cases at A.A. Wright Public School in Wallaceburg, and one case at Hudson Manor Retirement Home in Tilbury. He said he’s confident the Hudson Manor outbreak will not grow.

Walpole Island First Nation reported a third death linked to the virus and three new cases. The community has had two COVID-19 deaths since mid-March and has a total of 31 active cases.

Colby also believes that Chatham-Kent will remain in the Red-Control level of Ontario’s Re-opening Framework based on the current numbers and historical data. He said the current numbers have plateaued and the province hasn’t told him anything different.

“Just looking at the patterns over the last year, we often see sharp rises in our active cases when there are things going on and then they level-off and then they start to decrease again.” he said. “It’s been kind of a cyclical thing as we are on this roller coaster.”