Simcoe-Muskoka region is near the back of a tight pack moving toward herd immunity against COVID-19 through vaccination.
The local health unit has the third-lowest vaccine coverage rate of all 34 health units in the province, but there’s less than 10 per cent difference between the provincial average and the local rates.
“I do acknowledge we are, it would be fair to say, trailing at this time,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “Based on the trajectory, we’re about five days behind the average.”
Currently, about 56 per cent of the region’s over-12 population has two doses of a vaccine, the provincial average is 62.6 per cent.
Gardner confirmed the local region has been below the provincial average since the Ontario vaccine rollout began.
Part of the reason, he said, is because the region received below-average amounts of vaccine, particularly at the start of the rollout.
“Health units with above-average coverage rates received more vaccine early-on because they had much higher rates of the disease than we ever had here,” said Gardner during a media briefing on July 20.
Another factor in the local coverage statistics is the number of people who do not live in the region but came to a Simcoe-Muskoka vaccine clinic for one or two doses.
Gardner has been watching the balance between the number of people from Simcoe-Muskoka receiving a dose outside of the region versus the number of people from outside the region coming here to receive a vaccine.
As of today, the net balance is 11,500 more doses administered in Simcoe-Muskoka to people from out of the region.
“We are a destination of choice for people,” said Gardner. “We’re happy to be part of the solution in the province overall … but it does present a challenge for us to overcome.”
In response, the health unit has limited its pop-up, mobile, and walk-in clinics to Simcoe-Muskoka residents only.
With the more transmissible COVID-19 delta variant surging in the neighbouring Grey-Bruce region and causing a new COVID wave in the UK, Gardner said it’s important to get as much of the population vaccinated with two doses as possible.
“We know from projections from Public Health Ontario we will probably need in the range of a 90 per cent coverage rate to have true herd immunity,” said Gardner. “Without being able to immunize children under 12 years old, that’s not really possible.”
Testing is underway to determine which, if any, existing COVID vaccines can be used safely on children under 12 years old.
Two doses of a COVID vaccine has proven highly effective at protecting against symptomatic infection of COVID-19 and in reducing the transmission of even the delta variant.
“We want to do all we can here in Simcoe-Muskoka to get people vaccinated with first and second doses as quickly as possible,” said Gardner.
He said the health unit is launching a campaign next week to address vaccination hesitancy issues that citizens have raised. In particular, men under the age of 39 years old are lagging behind other groups for vaccine coverage.
The health unit will be holding walk-in clinics this week, and will be posting information on locations and clinic hours on its website regularly as clinic information is available.
Walk-in appointments will be available to Simcoe-Muskoka residents aged 12 years and older for first or second doses. The doses must be given 28 days apart.
For information on walk-in clinics this week or to book an appointment, visit the health unit website here.
Vaccine coverage rates
Data from Public Health Ontario and updated on July 14, 2021
|Age group||Ontario avg. single dose||Simcoe-Muskoka single dose||Ontario avg. two doses||Simcoe-Muskoka two doses|
|12 to 17||68.2%||63.2%||27.6%||19.8%|
|18 to 29||69.4%||61.1%||41.1%||29.6%|
|30 to 39||71.9%||68.1%||47.2%||37.3%|
|40 to 49||77.3%||73.9%||54.3%||45.4%|
|50 to 59||82%||75.8%||61.8%||50.9%|
|60 to 64||86.8%||89.4%||70.5%||65.6%|
|65 to 69||88.2%||91.7%||73.7%||68.7%|
|70 to 74||90.4%||92.5%||78.9%||78.4%|
|75 to 79||90.1%||89.3%||78.5%||75.2%|
|80 and over||88.3%||89.9%||79.9%||79.6%|