By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—With the vaccine passport system taking effect this week, local vaccination rates continued trending upward, with 75.8% of Haldimand Norfolk residents aged 12 and up now fully immunized, with 82% having received at least one dose.
As of September 22, 2021 all residents in Ontario must now show proof of their vaccination status to gain access to a variety of activities, including indoor dining, fitness facilities like gyms and indoor pools, and recreational activities like movie theatres, concerts, and sporting events.
“We can report that there has been a significant increase in the amount of not only walk-in appointments, but first doses,” said COVID Vaccine Task Force Team Lead Sarah Page. “As we see more organizations and private enterprises enact their own vaccination policies, we will see further uptake from some of our residents.”
Despite the encouraging uptick in vaccinations, only 60% of youth aged 12-17 have now been fully immunized locally, a number the health unit has been actively working to increase through a number of youth-based pop-up clinics.
Health Unit actively monitoring local schools
Through the first two weeks of school, no active outbreaks have been declared by HNHU at a school. Staff are continuing to monitor new cases, however, and are expecting a shift in the cases coming in.
“We talked about projections quite a bit over the last month or so. We did anticipate an uptick in cases over the September period.… Those cases typically exist among our unvaccinated population, of which we have more individuals unvaccinated that are school-age because they simply aren’t old enough to be vaccinated,” explained epidemiologist Dr. Katherine Bishop-Williams.
On the particular attention paid to schools reopening, she said, “We’re not only worried about the students in those schools. We’re doing everything we can to ensure that students, as well as staff and all other users of those facilities, are kept as safe as possible.”
The health unit has already conducted pop-up school clinics at Holy Trinity Catholic High School, Delhi Secondary School, Cayuga Secondary School, Simcoe Composite School, and Valley Heights. Additional clinics are scheduled for Waterford Public School on September 27 and Dunnville Secondary School on September 28.
“These clinics are Pfizer only,” said Page. “During the hours of school, these clinics will be for students only, but they are open from 1 to 7 p.m. Past 3 p.m., any members of the community … are all welcome to walk in.”
She noted that youth-based clinics prior to school reopening “were quite successful” and that the continued in-school clinics are part of a plan “trying to troubleshoot where is the most convenient place for people to come and where is the easiest place for access. We’re trying to hit all the population from 12 to 100.”
As for the issue of children who wish to be vaccinated despite their parents’ opposition, Page said, “We encourage everyone to talk to their children…. There are some parents that are quite set on their children not being vaccinated. I think the school board’s idea was to have a permission slip system where the child could exit the classroom to go get their vaccine.”
She added that HNHU will always follow Provinical regulations on how consent is obtained: “We know that the Ontario policy is that health care consent can be given by anyone 12 and over. We would never give a vaccination to someone who did not understand the situation. We encourage everyone to talk to their parents or talk to their kids.”
Third dose booster shots administered to eligible residents
According to Page, all but one of the nursing homes and high-risk retirement homes in Haldimand and Norfolk have completed their third booster doses as required by the Ministry.
The outlying home had to be rescheduled due to hydro issues caused by a storm at the time of the clinic.
The Provincial government has added additional health conditions that may make a person eligible for a third dose. The complete list of qualifying conditions is available on the health unit’s website at hnhu.org.
“We’re still encouraging people that feel like they fall into those medical categories to get the required forms filled out at their specialist or their family physician and then contact us for an appointment,” said Page.