By Mike Baker
There are around 40,000 eligible individuals who reside within the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit [HKPRDHU] jurisdiction that have not yet received a first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, says local medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking.
During a media briefing last Wednesday, July 14, Bocking said the health unit’s number one priority heading into the summer months is ensuring all residents have access to the vaccine.
“We are continuing to encourage youth and adults, families, and community organizations that work in support with them, and work places to encourage individuals and support access to vaccinations so that we can see our communities reach the highest coverage we can for both first dose and second dose vaccination,” Bocking said.
Across the region, for individuals aged 12 and over, 76.5 per cent of HKPR residents have received one dose of vaccination as of June 14. In total, 51.2 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.
Over the past week, HKPR has been expanding access to the vaccine, offering walk-in appointments at its five mass immunization clinics, including the one in Minden.
“Any age, any dose. It could be your first or second dose,” Bocking said. “We are receiving a lot more vaccine, which means we can offer more… opportunities for people to get vaccinated. Our goal is to vaccinate as many residents as possible so we can all be protected from COVID and not have to see any further shutdowns, illnesses or deaths.”
Walk-in appointments are available at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as well as clinic sites in Fenelon Falls and Cobourg.
For individuals who prefer to make an appointment, Bocking said there are around 13,000 slots still available across HKPR in July.
‘Haliburton is doing very well’
As of Monday, July 19, there has been a total of 2,205 cases of COVID-19 identified across the HKPR jurisdiction since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
There are 14 active cases of the virus within the local health unit, including one new case in Haliburton County, which was reported on Friday. There are a further 13 unresolved cases within the City of Kawartha Lakes.
This marks the first new case of COVID-19 in Haliburton County in several weeks, and takes the community’s total to 123.
Addressing media last week, Bocking said Haliburton County “is getting a gold star” for the way it has dealt with COVID-19 over the past 16 months.
“Haliburton is doing very well… Vaccination uptake has been excellent. There’s always room for improvement, but there has been good uptake at some of the more mobile clinics in Wilberforce and Dorset, and I would encourage individuals to take advantage of those opportunities to receive a first dose or second dose of the vaccine,” Bocking said.
Take what you are offered
There has been some controversy and uproar since the World Health Organization’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told an online media briefing last Monday, July 13 that mixing and matching COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers was “a little bit of a dangerous trend,” however, Bocking said those comments were largely taken out of context and reiterated it was safe for individuals to receive different brands of the vaccine for their first and second shot.
“I want to remind people that the policies that have been made around vaccination in Ontario and Canada have been informed by real world evidence and data from jurisdictions like the UK, Spain and Germany, who have all used Moderna and Pfizer interchangeably, safely and effectively,” Bocking said.
When vaccinations were first being offered within HKPR back in the early months of 2021, there was a large supply of the Pfizer vaccine, which many people received for their first dose. Since then, the Moderna vaccine has been more readily available, leading to most clinic sites within the local health unit to offer Moderna shots only to anyone over the age of 18.
As the only vaccine approved for youth, doses of the Pfizer vaccine are, at this time, largely being saved and administered to individuals between the ages of 12 and 17.
“We’ll continue to support this vaccination policy in Ontario and through our vaccine clinics,” Bocking concluded.