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The Ottawa area's weekly COVID-19 vaccination checkup: Dec. 16 – CBC.ca

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Highlights:

  • How vaccines fit in your protection against Omicron.
  • Ontario third dose eligibility expands, with technical and capacity problems.
  • Ottawa is working to speed up its vaccine campaign.

Every Thursday, CBC Ottawa brings you this roundup of COVID-19 vaccination developments throughout the region. You can find more information through links at the bottom of the page.

There have been more than 3.9 million doses administered in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region, more than 90,000 of them in the last week, which is more than the week before.

This checkup will go on hiatus for the holidays after next week’s edition.

Provincial picture

The quickly spreading Omicron variant is taking hold in Ontario, replacing the Delta variant as the dominant coronavirus strain.

A leading member of its science table says third COVID-19 vaccine doses are important, but don’t offer bulletproof protection and won’t turn around spread on their own.

First and second doses offer some protection.

WATCH | The latest data about Pfizer’s protection against Omicron:

Pfizer vaccine less effective against omicron, new data shows

1 day ago

Duration 2:02

New data gathered in South Africa suggests Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is less effective at preventing infections caused by the omicron variant, but the shot is still helpful in preventing hospitalization from the virus. 2:02

Experts generally agree people should avoid travel and large groups and give themselves as much protection as they can if they choose to gather, including getting every vaccine dose they’re eligible for.

Three of eastern Ontario’s six health units go further and have again asked residents not to see people they don’t live with in person.

WATCH | Rules of thumb for holiday gatherings

COVID-19 caution should be part of holiday events, experts say

3 days ago

Duration 2:12

With the holidays around the corner, experts are reminding Canadians to get vaccinated and remain cautious about attending events amid the spread of the omicron variant. 2:12

Ontario expanded third dose eligibility to people in their 50s and 60s on Monday, which came with technical problems and some health units, including Ottawa, quickly running out of clinic spaces and asking people to check with pharmacies.

Premier Doug Ford announced on Wednesday everyone 18 and over will be able to book a booster shot three months after their second dose starting on Monday. 

Among other changes in Ontario, children age 12 to 17 will need to show proof of vaccination for sports and recreation activities as of Dec. 20 — which some health units already require — with QR codes on all proof of vaccination and medical exemptions next month, plus the province is changing long-term care rules.

Its proof of vaccination program won’t end next month as originally planned.

Health officials have so far detected a “limited number” of Omicron cases in Quebec, according to Health Minister Christian Dubé.

Eighty-eight per cent of Quebec residents age five and up have had at least one dose and 81 per cent are fully vaccinated.

About 85 per cent of Ontario residents born in 2016 and earlier have at least one vaccine dose, while about 81 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Ottawa

In a memo to city council on Wednesday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reassigning employees and reaching out to qualified people to help it rapidly scale up its vaccination capacity.

OPH has released a list of after-school drop-in clinics for younger children. There are a few options every day until Dec. 23.

The capital still has regular and pop-up clinics for anyone eligible to get a first, second or third dose, as well as neighbourhood vaccine hubs, and it’s bringing mobile vaccine clinics to workplaces who request it.

A pop-up clinic is coming to the Banff Avenue Community House on Saturday.

WATCH | Allergists hit with surge of vaccine exemption requests:

Ottawa allergists ‘overwhelmed’ by residents seeking vaccine advice, exemptions, doctor says

2 days ago

Duration 1:13

Dr. Tim Olynych, an allergist in Ottawa, says he’s seen an increase in the number of people seeking advice about the COVID-19 vaccine or an exemption from vaccine requirements, including some demanding exemption letters without a valid reason. 1:13

More than 1.8 million doses have now been given to Ottawa residents.

Of the city’s total population of just over one million, 84 per cent of residents have had at least one dose, including 88 per cent of residents born in 2016 or earlier.

Seventy-eight per cent of the total population is fully vaccinated, as are 82 per cent of the population age five and older.

About 100,000 residents have had a third dose.

This combined bar and line graph shows vaccination numbers for Ottawa residents born in 2016 or earlier. Eighty per cent of residents age 18 to 29 are fully vaccinated, the last age group to hit that mark. (Ottawa Public Health)

Western Quebec

CISSSO continues to list recurring, mobile and pop-up clinics online. People are urged to make an appointment through the online system, but there are a few walk-in options for first and second doses.

Walk-in appointments for children will be available Saturdays at the Palais des Congrès between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Third doses are by appointment only.

The Outaouais has distributed nearly 644,000 doses — combined first, second and third — among a population of about 386,000.

Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington

The health unit is offering shots to younger kids and third doses at three main clinics by appointment only, with walk-ins for other kinds of shots on some days.

It shares the latest vaccination information online and on its social feeds.

Among them include an appointment-only clinic for recently eligible children at Kingston’s Holy Cross Secondary School Thursday and a drive-thru third dose clinic by appointment only at Kingston’s St. Lawrence College campus parking lot Saturday.

WATCH | A Q&A on the worst-case Omicron scenario: 

COVID-19: What is the worst-case scenario with omicron?

1 day ago

Duration 7:16

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Susy Hota and Dr. Peter Juni, the scientific director of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, discuss the growing wave of omicron cases including what people need to understand and the possible worst-case scenario. 7:16

About 89 per cent of its population age five and older has at least one vaccine dose and about 83 per cent of that group is fully vaccinated.

The region has had more than 372,000 vaccine doses — combined first, second and third — given to residents.

More than 45 per cent of the region’s approximately 13,000 recently eligible children have been vaccinated. More than 26,000 residents have had a third dose.

Eastern Ontario Health Unit

The EOHU is accepting walk-ins for recently eligible children at certain clinics, on top of the appointments being offered at provincial clinics. Appointments are still preferred.

Details for its vaccine clinics are regularly shared on its website and social media. It prefers people try a pharmacy or family doctor for their third dose before a community clinic.

Among the options for the coming weeks are clinics in Winchester Monday and Hawkesbury Tuesday afternoon.

More than 357,000 vaccine doses have been administered, including more than 16,000 third doses.

About 85 per cent of residents five and older are partially vaccinated, including about 28 per cent of its five-to-11 population, and about 80 per cent are fully vaccinated. 

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark

Because of the new demand from children and those seeking a third dose, the health unit is not offering walk-in vaccinations at this time. 

Clinic locations and hours are listed online and on social media; space for walk-ins may open up from time to time and they’ll share it online if it does.

There will be clinics for younger people in Brockville and Smiths Falls this weekend. Parents who qualify for a dose can get vaccinated at the same time as their child.

The health unit has given more than 322,000 doses to residents, which now includes about 16,600 third doses.

It is seeing 90 per cent of its population age five and up with at least one dose and about 87 per cent of those residents have at least two doses.

About 35 per cent of its children born between 2010 and 2016, or 3,650 of these kids, have had a first dose.

Hastings Prince Edward 

Appointments in Belleville and Picton are by appointment only. Bancroft’s vaccinations are being handled by the local health team.

Other options are listed on the health unit’s website.

About 286,000 doses have been administered to this area’s residents, including about 17,000 third doses.

Eighty-five per cent of the local population age five and older has had at least has a first dose, including about 3,600 doses for kids age five to 11. Seventy-eight per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated.

Renfrew County

The health unit regularly shares pop-up and walk-in clinic information online.

Renfrew County’s health unit has distributed nearly 167,000 doses.

Ninety per cent of its population above age 12, including military at Garrison Petawawa, have at least a first dose and about 87 per cent are fully vaccinated. Younger children aren’t yet included in this data.

About 1,500 recently eligible children have been vaccinated and another 1,000 had an appointment, the health unit said in a news release Monday, which is less than half the approximately 6,000 children in this age group.

Vaccinating these kids can help avoid isolation and potential trips to CHEO, eastern Ontario’s children’s hospital in Ottawa, it said.

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PEI has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases amongst Canadian provinces – SaltWire Network

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As of Jan. 21, P.E.I. had the highest reported rate of COVID-19 cases, with 1,050 per 100,000 people, of any province in Canada over the last seven days.

Only one jurisdiction, the Northwest Territories, surpassed the province’s rate of cases over the last week, with 2,024 cases per 100,000 people. The next closest province to P.E.I. was Alberta with 759 cases per 100,000.

But Susan Kirkland, head of Dalhousie University’s department of community health and epidemiology, said daily case counts and case rates do not capture the whole story.


“There does become a point where following cases – it collapses.”

Susan Kirkland, Dalhousie University Department of community health and epidemiology 


Kirkland says it is now clear that community spread of COVID-19 is widespread in Atlantic Canada, including in provinces like P.E.I., where testing of incoming travellers had previously helped contain spread of the virus.

Kirkland said differences in testing criteria, as well as differing reporting details mean comparing case rates between provinces is becoming less and less useful.

Dr. Susan Kirkland, head of the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at Dalhousie University, says that even after people are vaccinated for COVID-19, a strange new world awaits us. – SaltWire Network

While P.E.I. still allows PCR-RT testing for anyone with symptoms, Nova Scotia has limited PCR testing to specific vulnerable populations that are symptomatic. Rapid antigen tests are provided to the general population that is symptomatic.

In many provinces, daily positive case counts are not capturing the full number of people who have contracted the virus. New Brunswick has also stopped reporting daily case counts in COVID-19 briefings because of this, although the information is still available on the province’s website.

Kirkland said other indicators like hospitalization rates and test positivity are better indicators of how well a province like P.E.I. is faring amid the Omicron wave.

“Ultimately, what we are trying to do is stop the health-care system from (collapsing),” Kirkland said.

P.E.I.’s most recent test positivity rate was 20.7 per cent – significantly higher than all three other Atlantic provinces. There have been 19 hospitalizations since the first Omicron case was announced on Dec. 14.

After weeks of escalating case counts, P.E.I. Premier Dennis King imposed tighter public health restrictions on Jan. 19, closing gyms and in-room dining in restaurants.

Reporting varies

Since Jan. 18, the P.E.I. government has stopped recording daily counts of outbreaks associated with long-term care homes, shelters, the provincial correctional centre and other congregate settings.

While the lack of daily reporting has occurred in conjunction with continuing escalating case counts, P.E.I. may not be the only province to have made a decision to report less information about outbreaks.

Nova Scotia is continuing to report daily positive cases associated with long-term care outbreaks, but the province has recently decided to not report school outbreak numbers.

As an epidemiologist, Kirkland said she was not sure what she thought of public health offices restricting reporting on outbreak case counts.

She said Atlantic Canadians have become used to COVID-19 being contained. This has made it difficult for public health offices to communicate that overall containment of the virus is less feasible, due to the higher transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

“I think that what public health is now doing is trying to turn the corner to say, ‘we have to start to learn how to live with COVID,’ ” Kirkland said.

“We have to deal with the things that we know will reduce risks – we have to wear masks. We have to improve ventilation where we can. We have to limit social contacts in areas where we can,” she said.

But Kirkland also believes governments are faced with the challenges of prioritizing a safe reopening of schools.

“Very often people will say, ‘why is it safe for kids to be in school but we need to close restaurants,’ ” she said.

“That’s not the point. The point is that the priority is to keep kids in school. So, we have to do these other things in the community so that kids can stay in school. Because that’s what we think is the most important.”

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Now is not the time for vaccine mandates, even as vaccinations among children remain low: experts – CBC.ca

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Less than half of Canadian children ages five to 11 have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, but Canadian experts say now may not be the time to start mandating them for students attending school in person.

In December, Windsor’s city council endorsed a recommendation from its health unit that all elementary school students be vaccinated before returning to school. 

Meanwhile, in the United States, New York City now requires students to be vaccinated before taking part in extracurricular activities. California, which already has strict vaccine requirements for students, is mulling the addition of the COVID-19 vaccine to that list.

“For provinces that don’t have vaccine mandate policies, to start a conversation about vaccine mandates at a time where emotions are very heightened around vaccination is a risky endeavour,” said public health researcher Devon Greyson.

Greyson, an assistant professor of health communication at the University of British Columbia, has studied the efficacy of childhood vaccine mandates. They found that while uptake does increase, the boost can’t be solely attributed to mandates. Better communication, access and reporting systems also played a role.

In fact, in some jurisdictions, mandates did more harm than good by pushing some people away from vaccination, Greyson says.

“I recommend first really trying to build confidence in the population and make it as easy as possible for people to get vaccinated before considering a policy that has potentially negative consequences on children or parents,” they said.

A children’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic is set up at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, on Dec. 21, 2021. About five per cent of five- to 11-year-old children in Canada have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

No provincial or territorial governments have announced plans for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate in schools, but jurisdictions such as Ontario and New Brunswick already require vaccinations for certain preventable diseases in students entering the public school system. 

Legislation to strengthen mandatory-vaccination rules for N.B. schoolchildren was proposed in 2020, but was defeated. “There are varied opinions, and very strong opinions,” Premier Blaine Higgs, who voted in favour of the change, said earlier this month on CBC’s Power & Politics.

Dr. Cora Constantinescu, a pediatric infectious diseases expert who counsels vaccine-hesitant parents, says that with lower vaccine uptake among five- to 11-year-olds — and children returning to classrooms — there’s an urgency get them vaccinated as soon as possible. But she stopped short of calling for a mandate.

While Constantinescu believes that a vaccine mandate could be effective she pointed out some children risk being kept out of the classroom as a result of such a policy.

Only about five per cent of children ages five to 11 have been fully vaccinated, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed concern over the low vaccination rate on Wednesday, saying that it puts society’s most vulnerable people at greater risk.

WATCH | Experts weigh in on hesitation around vaccinations for kids:

Experts explain slower vaccine uptake among children

2 days ago

Duration 1:44

Ève Dubé, a INSPQ medical anthropologist, and Dr Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist, weigh in on why some parents are still hesitant to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. 1:44

Access remains a key issue

In October, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the COVID-19 vaccine would be added to the list of vaccinations required for students to attend school in-person. The policy will be enforced after the federal government approves the vaccines, and the state will grant exemptions for medical reasons, plus religious and personal beliefs. 

Some school districts have already enacted mandates in the state.

Young children are particularly good at spreading respiratory illnesses — and that’s likely the case for COVID-19 as well, according to Annette Reagan, adjunct assistant professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health in California. 

People wait to get their children vaccinated at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal. Dr. Cora Constantinescu says that providing greater access to vaccines could help improve the vaccination rate among five- to 11-year-olds. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

She says that justifies the addition of COVID-19 vaccines to existing mandates.

“Increasing vaccination rates and stopping transmission in younger children is a good thing for our community, but it comes with the mandates,” said Reagan, noting that such policies limit parental autonomy.

The reasons behind low uptake among the pediatric group in Canada are varied, according to Greyson, but might be explained by timing and limited access to clinics.

Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine was approved by Health Canada for the five to 11 cohort in late November — just weeks before the holidays when non-emergency medical appointments tend to slow down. 

Pediatric vaccine doses may also be less widely accessible compared to adult doses, said Constantinescu, making it more difficult for parents to get their kids immunized.

“The low-hanging fruit of vaccine uptake is always access,” said Constantinescu. “We have not made this as easily accessible as we could have.”

Constantinescu believes, however, that the narrative children experience more “mild” illness when they contract COVID-19 is a key factor behind the low vaccination rate — a message that parents should reconsider.

“We pray and hope that it’s just going to be a mild illness in most kids. That would be fantastic and I sure hope that, but we don’t know,” she said. 

“What we do know is that the vaccine is safe and we have enough supply.”

‘It’s in the best interest of your child’

Perhaps the most significant risk that comes with vaccine mandates, however, is the potential for children with vaccine-hesitant parents to miss out on in-person learning. 

Constantinescu argues that some children may not get the protection provided by vaccination or the benefits of learning in person.

With new evidence that negative side effects, such as myocarditis, are rare in the five to 11 bracket, she says now is the time to “shout from the rooftops” that vaccinating against COVID-19 is safe.

“This is the top vaccine-preventable threat to our children and we have a safe vaccine,” she said.

“We need to tell parents this is about protecting your child, first and foremost. It’s not about saving the pandemic, it’s not about saving the world.”

“This is because it’s in the best interest of your child.”


Written by Jason Vermes with files from Ashley Fraser, CBC News and The Associated Press.

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Nova Scotia reports 11 people in ICU Saturday, total of 287 people in hospital with COVID-19 – CTV News Atlantic

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In a news release Saturday afternoon, health officials in Nova Scotia said 82 people were admitted to hospital and are receiving specialized care in a COVID-19 designated unit. 11 people were reported to be in intensive care.

According to the province, the age range of those in hospital is 23-100 years old, and the average age is 67.

Of the 82 people receiving specialized care for COVID-19 in hospital, 79 were admitted during the Omicron wave.

There are also two other groups of people in hospital related to COVID-19:

  • 84 people who were identified as positive upon arrival at hospital but were admitted for another medical reason, or were admitted for COVID-19 but no longer require specialized care.
  • 121 people who contracted COVID-19 after being admitted to hospital.

The number of COVID-19 admits and discharges to hospital was not available Saturday.

On Jan. 21, the Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 3,682 tests.

According to a news release, an additional 502 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being reported.

Of the new cases; 219 are in the Central Zone, 88 are in the Eastern Zone, 59 are in the Northern Zone and 136 new cases are in the Western Zone.

Nova Scotia remains under a state of emergency. Provincial officials first declared a state of emergency on March 22, 2020 and it has now been extended to February 6, 2022.

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