More than 96 per cent of the COVID-19 cases being reported in Simcoe-Muskoka involve unvaccinated people.
This week, the health unit confirmed the death of a man who contracted COVID-19 after receiving two doses of vaccine.
The four most recent deaths reported by the health unit included two men over 80 years old and two men between 45 and 64 years old. One of them had one dose of vaccine and one had two doses before they contracted COVID-19.
Hospitalization and death from COVID-19 is rarer in individuals who have received one or two doses of a vaccine.
Public Health Ontario reported 403,000 COVID cases between Dec. 14 and July 10, and of those, 4.1 per cent of the people infected were partially vaccinated.
Less than half a per cent of those infections were considered “breakthrough cases,” which is the term for an infection in a fully-vaccinated individual.
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health, Dr. Charles Gardner, said the local experience for breakthrough cases has followed the provincial findings.
According to the latest Public Health Ontario breakthrough case report, of the 9,673 cases reported between Dec. 14 and July 10 in Simcoe-Muskoka, 2.6 per cent were symptomatic cases in partially vaccinated people, and 0.3 per cent were symptomatic breakthrough cases.
Adding asymptomatic cases, the numbers go up to 3.5 per cent for partially vaccinated individuals, and 0.4 per cent breakthrough cases.
“The great majority of our cases and certainly those who passed away have been individuals who have not been vaccinated and among those who have been vaccinated, [they were] only partially vaccinated with one dose,” said Gardner during a media briefing on Tuesday.
About 60 per cent of the new cases reported in Simcoe-Muskoka have been delta variant cases.
Of the four Simcoe County residents currently hospitalized, three were not immunized at all and one was immunized with a single dose, but developed symptoms of COVID within 14 days of receiving the vaccine.
Case counts in the region are the lowest they’ve been since last summer. But there’s no guarantee the trend will continue into the fall.
“It’s important to note that almost a quarter of our population has yet to receive their first dose and with the delta variant, it’s really important people come forward and get their first dose and then their second dose,” said Gardner. “We know that the delta variant, although the first dose provides a lot of protection against severe infection, you really need a second dose to protect against having any infection at all and transmitting it onto others.”
The health unit to the west of Simcoe County – Grey Bruce Health Unit – has been reporting its highest-ever case rates. On more than one day, Grey Bruce had the highest number of new COVID cases in the province.
According to the Grey Bruce Health Unit, 99 per cent of their more recent cases have been delta variant infections.
“Like the UK, this does speak to the potential for the delta variant to surge and cause waves,” said Gardner. “It’s very infectious and it can get away from you and unfortunately some health units have had to deal with that – Grey Bruce Health Unit being one of them … We do need to be vigilant because its potential to surge is demonstrated by their experience.”
The local medical officer of health is urging people to get both doses of vaccine as soon as possible, and not to delay because they would prefer Pfizer over Moderna or vice versa.
Anyone attending a vaccine clinic can refuse the vaccine they are offered, but Gardner hopes they do not.
“We would recommend people not delay in receiving a second dose, that you accept the second dose that you’re offered because of the need to be protected against the delta variant,” said Gardner, reiterating the National Advisory Committee on Immunization support for mixing mRNA vaccines where necessary.
He said the health unit clinic staff will try to match second dose brands with first doses, but it’s not always an option.
The region has recently had more supply of Moderna, but is expecting “very large shipments” of Pfizer throughout the rest of the month.
“[Vaccination] is the way in which we can protect ourselves, protect our loved ones, avoid transmission to other people, and collectively be able to continue to move successfully through the road map, through the steps to freer lives together, to essentially a higher quality of life and to have more security going into the fall,” said Gardner.
Anyone aged 12 and up is eligible for both doses of the COVID vaccine, which must be given at least 28 days apart. To book a vaccine and find walk-in clinics near you, visit the health unit website.