/Vaccine boosters available six months after second dose
Wendy Wilkins was volunteering at Minden’s COVID-19 vaccination clinic on the morning of Nov. 5. The clinic is open again for those who need first or second vaccinations, as well as those eligible for booster shots. /SUE TIFFIN Staff

Vaccine boosters available six months after second dose

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports from a Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit press conference held Nov. 3 with medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking.

Booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine are now available for some of the population if it has been six months since their last dose.

People who are 70 or older, or born in the year 1951 or earlier; First Nations, Inuit, Métis people and household members, including those living on or off reserve; healthcare workers including essential caregivers in congregate care settings and those who received a full series of Astra-Zeneca or Johnson and Johnson shots were able to access a booster shot as of last weekend. The latter group is included, said Bocking, because there are some studies showing a full series of the viral vector vaccine does not seem to be offering the same protection against COVID-19 as the MNRA vaccines. 

“Two doses of MRNA still have very good protection against very severe disease or bad outcomes from COVID-19 so there’s not the same urgency around getting third doses as we might have felt about first or second doses,” said Bocking, noting that being fully vaccinated is still considered to mean having two shots, and that the third dose, or booster is optional. 

“There’s a number of things to consider,” said Bocking. “Everyone has different levels of tolerance for risk. So we know that there will be some people that, if there’s anything they can do to decrease risk of COVID-19 then they will do that and that will mean wanting to get a third dose right away. There’s other people that are more comfortable with a little bit of risk, and saying that, we’re not having a lot of COVID-19, this is recommended and not required, and maybe I’ll wait for a little bit.” 

She recommended people talk to their healthcare provider if they have questions. 

A mass clinic has reopened in Minden at the Minden community centre to help vaccinate the number of people who might be wanting a booster shot. An appointment system is being reintroduced, and the last hour of each clinic will be open to walk-ins, though could be a busy time.

Low case numbers locally continue  

Since the start of the pandemic, 2,498 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded across the HKPR region, and as of last Nov.3, Bocking said there was a “continued trickle of cases,” with eleven cases active, five in City of Kawartha Lakes, six in Northumberland County and none in Haliburton County.   

Bocking noted that provincially numbers are low and at times in some areas of the province, there will be an increase in numbers.

“I’m flagging that just to remind people that even though we’ve had a low number for several weeks now, it doesn’t mean that we’re not vulnerable to increases in cases of COVID-19 if a larger outbreak were to be declared or we see an influx of cases being identified,” she said.  

Majority of cases among young adults 20 to 29 

Of the 17 new cases identified in the past 14 days, greater than 40 per cent of those are among the age group of 20 to 29, said Bocking. Of those cases, 35 per cent did not have an identifiable source for exposure and 17.5 were identified to be close contacts. Of the 338 cases identified since July 1, 63 per cent are among individuals that had received no vaccinations, 19.2 per cent were partially protected or considered to be not yet fully protected and 17.8 per cent were fully vaccinated.

Health unit aiming for 90 per cent vaccination rate

“We’re continuing to make slower incremental progress in terms of vaccination coverage,” said Bocking. 

As of last week, the coverage rate of individuals aged 12 and over across the health unit who have received one dose of COVID-19 vaccine is 86.3 per cent, while 83 per cent have received two doses of vaccine.  

“We’d like to see 90 per cent of the population eligible for vaccination to be fully vaccinated,” said Bocking. “We do still have a little ways to go but we are continuing to see individuals that have not yet been vaccinated to come to access vaccine, which is great. I really would encourage people to continue to talk to friends, family members that have not yet been vaccinated yet to have a respectful conversation about the risks and benefits of vaccination. It’s certainly not too late to get your first dose of COVID vaccine.”

The health unit continues to offer mobile, pop-up and school-based clinics. For more information visit www.hkpr.on.ca/2021/09/01/vaccination-clinics/.