Ontario youth aged 12 to 17 were able to start booking accelerated second doses of their COVID-19 vaccines Monday as the government worked to boost immunization rates before school resumes in September.
Appointments opened at 8 a.m. through the provincial booking portal, public health units and pharmacies. Tweens and teens in that age group are eligible for Pfizer-BioNTech shots, the only vaccine approved for use in youth in Canada.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said high vaccination coverage among youth will allow schools to offer in-person learning this fall and will help extracurricular activities, volunteer opportunities and other in-person experiences resume.
“I’m encouraging families out there to sign their child up,” he said Monday. “By doing so, our schools will be safer and it will allow us to create a much more normal experience I think many of our young people long for.”
Roanne Wetherup of Ottawa set an alarm on Monday during her family camping trip to ensure she could try booking a faster second dose for her 12-year-old daughter Marisol, who received her first shot in June and had been scheduled for another in September.
Appointments at youth clinics weren’t immediately appearing on the online portal when she tried to book just after 8 a.m., but Wetherup said she had better luck through the provincial call centre. After a short wait on the phone, she said she was able to snag an appointment for her daughter for next week.
“She’ll be fully vaccinated before school starts and I couldn’t be happier,” Wetherup said in an interview. She said her daughter was looking forward to being able to resume her competitive gymnastics and return to school in-person.
More than 58 per cent of youth aged 12 to 17 had one dose of a vaccine as of Monday and more than nine per cent were fully vaccinated.
The government has promised to offer full vaccination to all eligible students and educators before classes resume. Pfizer vaccines have been set aside for youth, and youth-focused first dose clinics have been extended this week.
Lecce has said the government will share its back-to-school plan later this month after developing it with the chief medical of health and looking at factors like vaccination rates among staff and students.
Ontario’s opposition parties have said the government needs to improve ventilation and mandate smaller class sizes as it prepares its back-to-school plan.
The Progressive Conservative government has committed to spending $1.6 billion on boosting health and safety measures in schools, and more than $85 million to support learning recovery, but details are still outstanding about what September will look like in Ontario classrooms.
Classes were disrupted multiple times over the last year as the province moved learning online to contend with surges in COVID-19 infections.
Lecce said high vaccination rates among the broader community will allow the province to reopen schools in September for full in-class learning, including for students under 12 who are not currently eligible for vaccination.
As of Monday, 78 per cent of adults in Ontario had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and 46 per cent were fully vaccinated.
“This gives us an incredible sense of confidence that the communities that our schools are surrounded in will be safer,” Lecce said.
“With low cases in the community, we know absolutely, we’re going to be able to return kids back to class.”
The move to accelerate second vaccine doses for youth comes as the province further ramps up its vaccination campaign.
Ontario initially booked people in for a second shot four months after their initial dose.
The second-dose schedule has been moved up over the last several weeks in light of greater incoming vaccine supply. Eligibility has been expanding based on location and the date when residents got their first shots.
Youth in hot spots for the more infectious Delta variant became eligible to move up their second doses late last month, and the option was offered to young people across the province on Monday.
That means as of Monday, everyone eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in the province had the option of booking accelerated second doses, but the onus is still on individuals to seek out and book new appointments themselves.
Lecce said the government is looking at additional “tactics” to boost participation in the province’s vaccine drive in the coming weeks.
“We’re having discussions about ways by which we can bolster the percentage and incentivize participation,” he said, adding that public health units, school systems, health-care providers and other partners are helping to promote vaccination as safe.
Ontario reported 170 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday and one death from the virus.
No changes expected as COVID-19 cases surge in Central Okanagan: Kelowna airport – Revelstoke Review – Revelstoke Review
With new restrictions announced specifically for the Central Okanagan today (July 28), the Kelowna International Airport (YLW) said they are not expecting any changes to their operations.
Senior manager of airport operations Phillip Elchitz said that with the COVID-19 safety plan already in place at YLW, they don’t expect much more to change.
Elchitz also said that they’re not expecting much impact on passenger numbers because of the new restrictions.
“YLW is not anticipating a reduction in commercial scheduled flights as a result of the new provincial health guidelines specific to the Central Okanagan,” he said.
“YLW currently has a mandatory mask policy in place for all areas of the Air Terminal Building and on aircrafts due to Transport Canada requirements.”
Individual passenger temperature is also checked just before they go through security as an added safety measure.
Earlier in the afternoon on July 28, the province announced that masks will be mandatory again in indoor public spaces throughout the Central Okanagan, which includes Kelowna, West Kelowna, Peachland and Lake Country.
The province is also discouraging non-essential travel to and from the Central Okanagan, especially for those who are not vaccinated or who don’t have both doses yet.
Nenshi says lifting Alberta’s remaining COVID-19 health orders is the ‘height of insanity’ – Global News
The mayor of Calgary says it’s the “height of insanity” that Alberta is moving ahead with removing almost all of its remaining COVID-19 public health orders, even as cases climb in the province.
Alberta has ended isolation requirements for close contacts of people who test positive and contact tracers will no longer notify them of their exposure. The province has also ended asymptomatic testing.
Further measures are to be eliminated Aug. 16. People who test positive will no longer be required to isolate. Isolation hotels will close as quarantine supports end.
“It is inconceivable to me. It is the height of insanity to say we don’t even know what’s happening,” Nenshi said Thursday.
“It is putting the health of Albertans at risk. To stop contact tracing, to stop testing people for the coronavirus and to become one of the first _ if not the first — jurisdictions in the world to say that people who have tested positive, who are infectious, can just go about their lives.”
Majority of Canadians worried about lingering COVID-19 threat, according to poll
Naheed Nenshi, who was making an announcement at the Calgary airport, said if he were in another jurisdiction he would be thinking hard whether to put travel restrictions on Albertans starting Aug. 16.
“I’m aware of no science that backs this up. It is clear for the last month or so on this file (that) our government has been grasping and struggling, just trying to get some good news out of something,” he said.
“To say we don’t want to know who has the coronavirus, we don’t want to track outbreaks. Even the most fervent of the anti-maskers wouldn’t say (to) unleash people who are actually infectious into the population.”
Nenshi said he worries that the decision to lift the health orders is politically motivated and has nothing to do with science at all.
“The only possible explanation here is a political one. It might be that they’ve run out of money, but you know what? Don’t spend $1.5 billion on a pipeline you know isn’t going to get built if you’re running out of money.”
© 2021 The Canadian Press
Businesses, tourism sector worried about impact of local virus restrictions in Central Okanagan – Kelowna News – Castanet.net
Come to the Central Okanagan, but only if you’re fully vaccinated.
That is the message from the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) and Tourism Kelowna after the provincial government announced new local steps Wednesday to try and lower COVID-19 cases.
A new regional mask policy was announced by Interior Health after 240 new cases of the virus were identified among Central Okanagan residents in the last week.
Along with the indoor mask mandate, the province is now discouraging non-essential travel into and out of the Central Okanagan for people who are not immunized.
TOTA says after an extremely tough 15 months they are concerned about how it might affect the industry, but she says it is a necessary step.
‘’I think the bigger concern is that if we don’t address it now and get things under control we will continue to lose ground. We have done so well up until now. I think that doing this to make sure that we nip it in the bud and we get a good rest of the summer and fall is very important,” said senior vice president Ellen Walker-Matthews.
Tourism Kelowna president and CEO Lisanne Ballantyne says the change will likely impact frontline staff the most.
“We know especially with having dealt with the haze and smoke recently that this is going to have an impact on our tourism businesses. Primarily it is going to be our frontline staff I’m afraid. These are the folks who are dealing with the public every day, and because this health order is only for the Central Okanagan, many travellers don’t realize that it is in effect and it is the frontline staff that have to do the education.”
The Kelowna Chamber of Commerce says the regional mandate has also caused some confusion amongst businesses.
“Earlier this year we were loud and clear along with chambers across the Interior when our numbers were extremely low we petitioned the province to do regional decision making because the rates were so high in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley they introduced the circuit breaker,” said Kelowna Chamber of Commerce president Dan Rogers.
“When they did that it had a massive impact on our businesses even though our rates were low. The line we heard from the province at that time was all of our decisions would be made province-wide and there won’t be any regionally based decision making. Now they have flip-flopped,” Rogers added.
The Interior’s vaccination rate is slightly lower than the provincial average, with 60 per cent of eligible people having received both doses, compared to B.C.’s 63.2 per cent.
Interior Health did not announce an end date for the new measure but says it will be in place for “at least 14 days.
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