It could still take upwards of two months to get 90 per cent of eligible Ontarians vaccinated, top health official warns

Dr. Kieran Moore attends a press briefing at Queens Park in Toronto on Thursday June 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

It could take Ontario upwards of two months to get 90 per cent of its eligible population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 even with a recent rise in the pace of immunization, the province’s top public health official is warning.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has said that the 90 per cent target must be achieved in order to negate the impacts of the more infectious Delta variant and allow COVID-19 to slowly transition from an of control pandemic to something more closely resembling an endemic.

However, as of today only about 79 per cent of eligible Ontarians are fully immunized and while the pace of first doses has picked up in the wake of the Ford government announcing a mandatory vaccine certificate system the final stretch of Ontario’s vaccine rollout still appears likely to drag on.

“We are still making slow progress but if we stay at this pace to get to a high enough protection level, so over 90 per cent, it could take an additional 60 days,” Moore warned during a briefing on Tuesday.

“I do hope we'll have an uptick in the near future. After a long weekend like this we normally do see the increase in cases of COVID-19 later in the week and I think once people realize this virus isn't going away and the risk will continue throughout the fall and into the winter that alone should be an incentive to come forward and get protected.”

Moore said that Ontario has seen a steady increase in its rolling seven-day average for first doses ever since the Ford government announced the vaccine certificate system last Wednesday, almost entirely among the ages 18 to 59 cohort.

But he said that the pace has not yet picked up enough to significantly alter the timeline for getting 90 per cent of eligible Ontarians fully vaccinated, even with vaccination set to become mandatory for access to certain non-essential setting as of Sept. 22.

For that reason he said that he is making a “call to arms” to Ontarians who have not yet received their first dose.

His comments come in the wake of Ontario’s Science Advisory Table publishing new data which suggests that vaccines have resulted in a 97.7 per cent reduction in ICU stays and a 95.9 per cent reduction in hospital admissions.

The data also suggests that daily case counts are 85.8 per cent lower than they would be otherwise were it not for vaccines.

“The stats show it. You have a seven times higher risk of getting COVID and a 24 times higher risk of getting hospitalized (if you are unvaccinated) and when you get hospitalized it's because your lungs are filling up with fluid and you can't get oxygen into your bloodstream and you're fighting for air. Then it’s a 40 times higher risk of getting admitted to the intensive care unit and if you're getting admitted to the intensive care unit it's because you cannot breathe on your own anymore,” Moore said.

“No one wants to see that happen to any of our loved ones. We want to protect those that are unvaccinated right now and we need you to come forward and get immunized to protect yourselves, your community, the health system, and all of your loved ones.”

Ontario administered more than 102,000 additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine over the last week, pushing the percentage of eligible residents who have been fully vaccinated up by about one per cent.