Vaccine stragglers taking a gamble

By the time you read this, Ontario’s most recent stay-at-home order will have expired, unlike tens of thousands of doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines for which Health Canada extended the expiration dates after further batch testing on the lot the doses came from indicated they were still effective.

That testing of doses from the two lots that were expiring and modelling data provided by the company showed the doses would remain stable for at least the next month, is good news, as all reliable reports indicate every vaccination brings the pandemic closer to an end, or at least to a less destructive phase.

As we have watched Ontario’s COVID-19 case numbers fall steadily over the past few weeks, two things seem obvious. One, is that holding off resumption of many activities a few extra weeks has helped avoid a repeat of the consequences of last February’s premature re-opening, which led to a quick spike in cases and a deadly, yet entirely predictable, third wave of the virus.

Also clear is that the vaccines, developed rapidly thanks to an unprecedented level of funding and resource deployment, are highly effective and a play a big part in bringing down case numbers.

It’s now time to get truly serious about getting vaccinated.

To this point, willing, even eager, arms have been enough to soak up the doses available, but we’re reaching the point that stragglers will hinder the effort.

In an update to Wellington County council last week, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Nicola Mercer estimated the gap between the number of people who are vaccinated or scheduled for vaccination and the WDGPH goal of first-dose vaccination for 75% of local residents is about 12,000 people across the region and four or five thousand in Wellington County.

“That’s the number that we need to register to make an appointment or to come physically to get their vaccines,” she stated.

Warden Kelly Linton thanked Mercer for laying out the target in such clear fashion and noted, “As local leaders, we’re all on the hunt in trying to encourage people to get those vaccinations.”

As local residents, we should also be encouraging and helping those around us to arrange for their jab.

While the concept of a general “vaccine passport” has not been floated by any level of government, some sectors and institutions are making vaccination a condition of participation.

As of July 1, all long-term care homes across the province must have an immunization policy in place, the Ontario government announced on May 31.

Staff working at long-term care homes who opt out of being vaccinated will have to either provide proof of a medical exemption or take an educational program addressing how COVID-19 vaccines work, safety regarding the development of COVID-19 vaccines, the risks of going unvaccinated, the benefits of being vaccinated and possible side effects.

Western University is requiring vaccination for students in on-campus residences.

While it’s a long way off,  Dr. Barbara Yaffe, Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, has stated it is likely the COVID-19 vaccine could eventually become one those required for children in the province to attend school.

“I see potential in the future for that,” she said at a May 30 news conference.

No COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children under 12 yet, so they won’t become mandatory anytime soon, but the requirement could help prevent outbreaks in the future.

Other diseases for which vaccines are mandatory under the Immunization of School Pupils Act include diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, whooping cough and chicken pox. It’s not a new idea.

It’s likely we will see more such measures put in place in both public and private sector workplaces and public spaces as we work toward the safest possible reopening and resumption of activities.

That will no doubt upset some. However, apparently not most.

A recent Ipsos poll showed a majority of Canadians are in favour of requiring COVID-19 vaccine passports in order to travel, attend university or go to a concert. The Ipsos poll conducted for Global News found 72 per cent of respondents supported vaccine passports for air travel. And 67% said they favoured passports for indoor concerts, theatres and museums. The same number supported the idea for attendance at post-secondary schools.

A provincial stat Mercer shared with county councillors simply blows out of the water the argument of naysayers who point to occasional coronavirus cases in vaccinated individuals as evidence they aren’t effective.

“If you’ve had one dose of the vaccine we know that 99.8 of people do not report any COVID disease,” she said. “And then if we look at that .2% who are developing disease, most of people do get a vaccine and go on to get COVID do so less than two weeks after they receive their dose, which means they actually weren’t protected.

“So the vaccine didn’t fail, it just didn’t get a chance to get to work,” she pointed out.

Mercer also noted that of all those who received a single dose of the vaccine, only .06% reported getting symptoms (after the two-week period). Further, she noted, members of this group experienced only “mild” cases – none required hospitalization and none died.

Not many ventures we can think of offer such good odds of success.

In fact, from all indicators available, it appears obvious those resisting vaccination are the ones taking a gamble.

North Wellington Community News