Colby: more teens need to get vaccinated

A public health nurse administers a COVID-19 vaccine. (File photo supplied by Southwestern Public Health)

The COVID-19 vaccination rate in Chatham-Kent has gone from first to worst in the past six months.

Provincial data is showing that Chatham-Kent is at the bottom when it comes to vaccination rates in Ontario with only 74 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated with two doses. The target is 90 per cent. That’s a complete reversal since March when Chatham-Kent had the highest vaccination rate in the country. Windsor-Essex also has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the province with 74 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated. Ontario data also showed that Chatham-Kent and Windsor-Essex are the top COVID-19 hot spots in the province, with cases per 100,000 of 110.05 in Chatham-Kent and 113.69 in Windsor-Essex.

However, the news is not all bad. Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby told the Board of Health on Wednesday that the municipality has seen a huge improvement since June when local vaccination rates hit a wall. Dr. Colby said 200 shots are now being administered each day between public health clinics and local pharmacies and he’s encouraged that many are first doses.

“It tells me that people have finally said OK, I’ll get this done,” Dr. Colby said.

Colby added that more work is needed to get the 12-17 group vaccinated. Only 53 per cent of that age group isĀ  fully vaccinated.

Colby also credits vaccines for keeping the local COVID-19 death toll at 17. Chatham-Kent Public Health hasn’t reported a death linked to the virus in three months.

He reminds those who are still hesitant about getting vaccinated that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is warning that the province could run out of ICU spots by October if transmission isn’t reduced and vaccinations aren’t accelerated. Colby added that Ontario could also “regress” to Step 2 of the Reopening Ontario Act if the numbers get worse.

On Wednesday, Chatham-Kent Public Health reported the number of active cases of COVID-19 remained at 116. Colby said almost all of the new cases are the Delta variant of the virus and most of them are close contacts of other cases.

“It gives me some level of comfort. I get very uncomfortable if we have large numbers of cases that just come in that we can’t figure out where they acquired this. It’s very hard to control that and it raises the spectre of uncontrolled transmission among multiple sectors of the community at large and were not seeing that,” said Colby. “Hats off to our contact tracers who are just being worked off their feet.”

Dr. Colby reported two new local cases are the Mu variant of the virus but he’s not too concerned about it, saying it is less transmissible than the Delta variant.

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance reported 16 local patients in the Chatham hospital with COVID-19 and four of them are in the ICU. All but two of the patients are not fully vaccinated as has been the case for weeks.

No new COVID-19 outbreaks were reported on Wednesday. The outbreaks at the Chatham hospital rehabilitation and stroke unit and the Praise Fellowship Church in Chatham continue.

There are 11 student cases of COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent public schools. All of them remain open for in-person learning. There is only one student case reported at Catholic schools in Chatham-Kent. St. Anne in Blenheim has closed a class as a result.