/Health unit plans to bring back mass immunization clinics
The new Minden arena has been transformed into a vaccination hub where COVID-19 vaccines will be administered until July, after which vaccinations will take place in the Minden Hills Community Centre. /DARREN LUM Staff

Health unit plans to bring back mass immunization clinics

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference with medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking, held virtually Oct. 20. 

In the next couple of weeks or months, COVID-19 vaccines might be made available to five-to-11 year-olds, and more people might be eligible for booster shots, or third doses of vaccine. While the health unit is currently offering vaccine through mobile options such as school-based or community-based clinics and drive-thru clinics, mass immunization clinics are planned if more people become eligible for vaccination. 

“As we look forward into the next couple of months, we’ve had some questions about what our strategy will be as we have new populations that are becoming eligible for vaccine,” said Bocking. “We know these population groups are larger than we can likely handle in our targeted mobile strategies, so we are continuing to plan potentially a shift back to larger clinics at set locations throughout all of our geographic areas, in order to meet what we’re anticipating will be a high demand for vaccine.”

Bocking said details of confirmed locations, dates and time of clinics will be announced, but those plans are dependent on announcements from the province about eligibility for those who have not previously been able to receive vaccine.

As previously reported, Pfizer has submitted an application to Health Canada to approve the vaccine for youth aged five-to-11. 

Bocking said that while there is urgency for the vaccine to be approved, the “rigorous methods” typically in place for medication approval in Canada were still being upheld. 

“We sometimes talk about COVID-19 vaccines being fast-tracked, and I just want to emphasize that fast-tracked doesn’t mean they’re skipping parts of their review within that application to Health Canada,” said Bocking. “It just means that it’s prioritized and they will dedicate the resources to do the review as quickly as possible.” 

For now, the health unit does not have a timeline or estimate of when the vaccine will be available. 

“In preparation, certainly the province has directed all health units to have plans in place,” said Bocking. “If there is an approval we’ll be in a position to support roll-out very quickly.”

Characteristics of cases over the past 14 days

In the past 14 days, 31 new cases have been identified, the majority of those in the young adult population with 17.2 per cent being among adults 20 to 29, and 17.1 per cent among those under age 20, said Bocking. The majority of cases were identified as household contacts, at 41.9 per cent, and 25.8 per cent identified as close contacts while 16.1 per cent of cases had no known source of transmission. 

Since the start of school in September, 19 cases have been associated with schools. 

“These are cases that resulted from exposure in the community, so none of those cases were identified as the result of transmission in the school setting, and there have been no outbreaks associated with schools to date in this school year,” said Bocking.

Vaccination status of local COVID-19 cases

Since July 1, in the HKPR health unit region there have been 320 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and of those cases, 63.1 per cent have been unvaccinated, 19.7 per cent were partially vaccinated, and 17.2 per cent were among individuals who were fully vaccinated.

“One of the other indictors that we look at is the vaccination status of individuals with more severe COVID-19 disease, and I haven’t perviously reported on this number because we haven’t had a significantly high enough number,” said Bocking. “As of right now, since July 1, we’ve had a total of eight individuals that had severe enough disease that they had to be admitted to hospital, some requiring ICU admission. Among those eight individuals, seven had no record of vaccination, and one of them was partially vaccinated.”

“Certainly the evidence that’s coming out of multiple surveillance studies in terms of the effectiveness of the vaccine has demonstrated the strength in COVID-19 vaccine in preventing severe disease,” said Bocking.