Waterloo Region health official urges double vaccination as students prepare to go back to school

With the school year fast approaching and the province set to enter a fourth wave of the pandemic, Waterloo Region’s associate medical officer of health is urging the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Risk of hospitalization is two to three times higher after infection with Delta compared to the original virus,” Dr. Rabia Bana said at the region’s weekly COVID-19 briefing on Friday. “We need to accelerate vaccination, limit our number of contact, and practice public health measures to protect our community and the children who are returning to school next week”

Dr. Bana says COVID-19 vaccines are estimated to have prevented more than 3,000 cases, 520 hospitalizations and 73 deaths in the region from Dec. 2020 to Aug. 2021.

She adds that in the last 30 days unvaccinated individuals accounted for more than 70 per cent of cases in the region. They also made up 100 per cent of COVID-related ICU submissions, and both COVID-related deaths

SUPPORTING VACCINE CERTIFICATES

Ontario’s newly introduced COVID-19 vaccine passport system will come into effect Sept. 22.

Anyone eligible for a vaccine certificate must have both doses of an approved shot before entering a number of non-essential businesses, including gyms, theatres, sporting events, and indoor restaurants.

Regional Chair, Karen Redman says she’s in favour of the province’s passport announcement and the list of included businesses.

“A consistent and coordinated proof of vaccination is a necessary approach to stay open, and remain open,” Redman said.

Business staff are not included in the passport framework but Dr. Bana urges business owners to create new systems to drive employee immunization.

“We have always indicated that we are in support of policies that encourage vaccination in all settings and within all demographics,” Dr. Bana said. “We would support policies that help us to achieve the highest vaccination rates possible, including businesses as well.”

Bana says the province is working on making certificates more accessible for people without smartphones or living with disabilities.

PREPARING FOR BACK-TO-SCHOOL

Students are back in the classroom starting next week.

As of Friday, 68 per cent of the region’s 12- to 17-year-old age group are fully vaccinated.

Deputy Chief Shirley Hilton with the Waterloo Regional Police Service, who also leads the region's COVID-19 task force, wants that number grow by the end of the long weekend.

“With school beginning next week, I urge the twelve to seventeen year old age group to get their first and second dose if eligible,” Deputy Hilton said.

She adds the task force continue to work with school boards on developing vaccination opportunities to make shots more accessible. 

Post-secondary students began moving into on-campus residence this week.

Dr. Bana urged students to get their shots before the start of the fall semester and avoid high-risk settings, especially house parties and other large indoor gatherings.

Students are reminded to stay home if they are experiencing symptoms or have been identified as a high-risk contact.

WINDING DOWN REGION’S LARGEST VACCINE CLINIC

The COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Pinebush Road will begin winding down operations this weekend.

Due to the reduced volume of people who need both doses, the largest clinic in the region will only run two days a week starting Saturday.

“It was time for this clinic to ramp down, as we’ve done with other clinics,” Hilton said. “Although we are now in the ramp-down stage, we have a contingency plan in place with the agility to ramp-up operations, if required.”

The clinic has the capacity to administer 3,000 doses per day. More than 250,000 shots were given at the clinic since the start of the pandemic.

The facility will remain open Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Starting Sept. 7 operating clinics will no longer accept appointments and only serve walk-ins.