'It's your turn': City encouraging 18- to 39-year-olds to get vaccinated

Ottawa's medical officer of health is encouraging young adults to book appointments to receive COVID-19 vaccines if they haven't already.

Speaking at a media availability on Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches said people 18 to 39 are the cohorts with the lowest vaccination coverage in the city and she wants them to know appointments are available for first doses and early second doses.

"Ottawa residents have made so many sacrifices to keep COVID-19 at a manageable level and you are no exception," she said, specifically addressing young adults. "Keep up the great work and, if you haven't done so already, to get your vaccine, the first dose and the second dose. It is your turn."

According to data from Ottawa Public Health, 66 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 68 per cent of 30- to 39-year-olds in Ottawa have had one dose of a vaccine. This lags behind the 12- to 17-year-olds category (74 per cent) and groups 40 and above which all have more than 80 per cent coverage for first doses.

Part of the reason for the lower coverage overall is the sheer number of 18 to 39-year-olds in the city. Population estimates used by OPH suggest there are more than 161,000 people 20 to 29 and more than 158,000 people 30 to 39 in Ottawa, which is more than any other age category.

While the 18 to 29 coverage for one dose is at 66 per cent that still accounts for 122,381 individuals. For comparison, the 50 to 59 age group has 121,657 people with one dose, but that makes up 87 per cent of that population. There are 107,835 people age 30 to 39 with one dose, which is 68 per cent of their population, compared to 109,697 people 40 to 49 with one dose, which is 81 per cent of that population. The 74 per cent coverage for 12 to 17-year-olds is 49,213 people.

Etches said she wanted to remind young adults that first and second shots are ready and waiting and there is ample supply.

"This is a population that never really got a specific invitation," she said. "We dropped the ages to 60, 50, 40, but we didn't say to this population it's your turn. The opportunity is here now and it does make a difference."

The head of the city's vaccination rollout task force, emergency services GM Anthony Di Monte, noted that there are 200,000 appointments for first and second doses booked in Ottawa's community clinics between July 1 and July 20, so he expects that will move the needle on coverage for the 18 to 39 demographic.

"The book isn't quite written yet for July," Di Monte said. "Once we see that flowing through the system, we'll see a lot of these numbers adjust."

Aiming for 90 per cent among all groups

Etches said the city's goal is to have 90 per cent of all available populations fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of Wednesday, 79 per cent of everyone 12 and older in Ottawa has had one dose and 33 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Di Monte said the supply of vaccines in Ottawa and the capacity of the city's community clinics, pop-up clinics, pharmacies and primary care clinics is sufficient to achieve that goal.

"I think the current infrastructure we have is sufficient to get us to 90 per cent," he said. "We're not going to stop. We continue to focus on our high-risk communities and there's important work that needs to continue to be done to get them up to those levels and we're looking at them individually, too."

Etches added that there are still barriers such as transportation and childcare holding some people back.

"People still have real barriers that we need to overcome," she said. "So, the work now is to understand what those barriers are and keep lowering those barriers."

Winning the race against delta variant but not at finish line

Etches said there is no evidence of any spread of the delta variant in Ottawa, though the number of confirmed cases in the city has increased in the last week.

Last week, OPH reported a total of nine cases of the delta variant had been confirmed in Ottawa. That number is now at 22 cases as of Wednesday.

"The current situation is positive. We don't have evidence of the spread of delta in Ottawa and we see the vaccination rates growing," Etches said. "The wastewater shows that there is COVID in our community but it's not growing exponentially … and it's not leading to hospitalizations and that's what we're aiming for."

Still, Etches says Ottawa is currently winning the race against the variant but we're not done yet.

"We're winning, it's just that we're not at the end of the race yet," she said. "If we don't continue to have vaccination ahead of the growth of the virus, we won't succeed in the end. We need to stay ahead, so that means pushing the vaccination rate as high as we can."

There have been 1,909 total confirmed cases of the delta variant in Ontario, according to Public Health Ontario. More than 1,200 cases are in the Toronto, Peel, and Waterloo public health units. 

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  •  12-17: 74 per cent (49,213 people)
  •  18-29: 66 per cent (122,381 people)
  •  30-39: 68 per cent (107,835 people)
  •  40-49: 81 per cent (109,697 people)
  •  50-59: 87 per cent (121,657 people)
  •  60-69: 88 per cent (104,997 people)
  •  70-79: 93 per cent (70,165 people)
  •  80 and older: 94 per cent (39,709 people)
  •  Unknown age: 2,543 people

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH TWO DOSES

  •  12-17: 2 per cent (1,393 people)
  •  18-29: 14 per cent (26,498 people)
  •  30-39: 18 per cent (28,841 people)
  •  40-49: 28 per cent (38,191 people)
  •  50-59: 42 per cent (59,289 people)
  •  60-69: 55 per cent (65,373 people)
  •  70-79: 66 per cent (50,039 people)
  •  80 and older: 74 per cent (31,157 people)
  •  Unknown age: 2,162 people