Health unit ‘struggling’ to boost region’s vaccination rate

KINGSVILLE —The COVID vaccination rate in Kingsville is comparable to the rest of Windsor and Essex County, but public officials expressed frustration Wednesday that the region’s averages were lower than other areas of the province.

Statistics provided by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) show the vaccination rates for Windsor-Essex County residents above the age of five at 82.6 per cent for the first dose and 77.7 per cent for the second dose.

“The vaccination rates In Windsor and Essex County have a lot of opportunity for improvement,” said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, acting director of the health unit.

“The higher the vaccination rate, the lower the burden of disease is to the community. If you’re vaccinated you are less likely to get infected … to be hospitalized from COVID … and to die from COVID and you are less likely to transmit COVID.”

Nesathurai said there are health units in the province with vaccination rates as high as 90 per cent.

Health unit CAO Nicole Dupuis said the unit’s efforts to raise vaccination rates may have hit “a cliff.”

“We are all struggling to figure out what strategies haven’t we used and what additional strategies we can use to reach … those individuals who are hesitant and unvaccinated,” she said.

There are 50,000 residents in Windsor-Essex County who qualify for the vaccine but remain unvaccinated.

There are 341,056 area residents who have received at least one dose.

Dubuis estimated Kingsville’s vaccination rates at 80 per cent.

Earlier this month, the health unit announced local restaurants and bars would be limited to 50 per cent capacity to help curb the spread of the virus.

On Monday, the health unit announced its first case of the Omicron virus, a more infectious variant than Delta.

I would urge those people who are currently not vaccinated to get vaccinated. If there is one group of people that could help the community it’s people who are currently not vaccinated … because those are the people the most vulnerable.

In Kingston, a region heavily hit by Omicron, the health unit has imposed more severe limitations on dining than those recently implemented by WECHU.

Opening hours have been restricted and no alcohol can be served after 9 p.m. Restaurant patrons must be seated when served and only four people can sit at a table.

Dr. Piotr Oglaza, medical officer of health for the Kingston region, has said Omicron now makes up 50 per cent of the active cases in the Kingston region.

Nesathurai was asked if similar restrictions could be implemented locally.

“Every option always remains open to the local public health service,” he said.
“I would urge those people who are currently not vaccinated to get vaccinated. If there is one group of people that could help the community it’s people who are currently not vaccinated … because those are the people the most vulnerable.

“I would anticipate there may be additional restrictions and it would be the province (that) may make those restrictions sometime in the future … but for Windsor-Essex we leave every option available based on our local epidemiology,” he said.

Nesathurai and Dupuis also spoke about the complexity of the investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak caused by a gathering at the Elite Restaurant in Kingsville.

“In an outbreak that involves 20, 30, 40 people there are at least eight contacts in every case so you have to think of all the people affected by the outbreak and many times outbreaks at restaurants affect other institutions like schools and recreational activities,” Nesathurai said.

Dupuis said investigations like the one in Kingsville end when there are no further cases linked to the outbreak.

It’s estimated 75 people attended the event at the restaurant on Nov, 18; 45 were infected by the virus.

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