HNHU ‘data cleaning’ brings vaccination rate above 70%

By Kaitlyn Clark

The Haldimand Press

HALDIMAND—Following ‘data cleaning’ that looked at two postal codes of vaccine recipients, Haldimand Norfolk’s eligible population has surpassed the 70% provincial target for completed doses.

“It actually resulted in our vaccination numbers climbing because those people do live within our borders,” said Sarah Page, Vaccine Task Force Lead. While youth vaccinations continue to lower the total percentage of eligible residents aged 12-plus being vaccinated, as of September 7, 72.3% of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated, “so well over that 70% goal that was originally mandated,” said Page. At that time, 74.4% of the adult population was fully vaccinated compared to 44.8% of the youth population.

The health unit continues to campaign for more residents to be vaccinated, and has seen first doses on the rise locally.

“We have found over the last week or so our rates of first doses are increasing. We’ve had far more walk-ins … and a lot of those have been first doses,” said Page. “We’re extrapolating that some of that is due to the announcements from the government about vaccine passports and restrictions, but we’re hoping that some of the education pieces are also getting out there that this Delta is a health risk and vaccination is your best protection.”

Meanwhile, those who are eligible for a third dose of vaccine are asked to contact their physician or specialist for a referral form, which will be submitted to the health unit to schedule the dose.

Return to school

Interim Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Alex Hukowich, is now awaiting the data on new cases following the return to school this week.

“We’ll probably see that within a couple of weeks in terms of whether or not the schools reopening is going to result in some kind of further bump to the cases we’re seeing,” said Hukowich. “If that is managed well without a lot of additional cases I think we’ll all be much better off.”

Overall, case counts are being monitored as we head into the fall with projections suggesting cases could rise into October. Hukowich noted that “we have already seen numbers starting to go up a bit … (but) we just have to wait and see” how the numbers progress in future.

He added that he hopes planned school vaccination clinics, among other public clinics, will help raise the percentage of vaccinated residents: “The extra work we’re really looking forward to is immunizing extra people.”

Vaccine passports & COVID restrictions

Vaccine passports are set to be required as of September 22 for non-essential services such as restaurants and movie theatres.

“People are now perhaps getting some understanding that they’re free to make decisions on whether they’re getting vaccinated or not, but those decisions don’t come without consequences,” said Hukowich. “Now that the Province has indicated what some of those consequences may be, some people are now changing their minds on the need for them being immunized, which I think is a very good thing.”

Since previous Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai stepped down, Hukowich revised the restrictions for migrant farm workers. He maintained the maximum occupancy of three workers to a bunkhouse, but lessened the restrictions for transporting workers from airports. He said he made these decisions following consultations with farmers and because increasing those being transported together resulted in a “marginal” increase of risk, while limiting housing ensured that “outbreaks we’ve had have all been very, very small.” He noted that farmers have assisted in this as well, with many farmers housing their workers separately off-site.

When asked about lockdowns, Hukowich stated that with the “limited tools” available earlier in the pandemic, quarantining was necessary to limit disease spread, noting that historically quarantining “was the only tool we had”.

As of September 7, there were no active outbreaks anywhere in Haldimand or Norfolk.