COVID: Incentives necessary to reach 90 per cent immunized in Grey-Bruce, MOH says

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The goalposts in Grey-Bruce have shifted in terms of reaching effective herd immunity.


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Dr. Ian Arra, Grey-Bruce’s medical officer of health, said the immunity through vaccination target is now 90 per cent of the eligible population.

He said the new goal is a result of the more highly transmissible and severe Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in the region. He expects the rest of the province to follow suit.

“It’s our only way out of this,” Arra said.

The medical officer of health compared the recent outbreaks in Grey-Bruce, sparked and spread by the Delta variant, to a movie. Just when the region was nearing its target of 75 per cent immunity, a new foe enters and changes the game.

Now, as the mass vaccination hubs in the region are set to close, and weekly vaccinations administered by the health unit slow, the immunization effort is changing as well. The Grey Bruce Health Unit will move to a more mobile and targeted COVID-19 vaccination plan, before transitioning into the long-term immunization strategy, similar to the flu shot, where vaccines are readily available at pharmacies, schools and primary care clinics.

The vaccination strategy will also likely include incentives for those who are immunized and fewer restrictions moving forward for those who get the shot.

Recently, the Ministry of Education announced students who are fully immunized won’t have to self-isolate if they’re deemed a close contact with an active COVID-19 case, as long as they can produce a negative test. Students without the vaccine will be made to stay home.


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“Ninety per cent is extremely difficult to reach and will require an extremely aggressive vaccination strategy with incentives and disincentives,” Arra said.

Arra said providing incentives for people to get the vaccines, and disincentives for those who choose otherwise, is a proven and effective strategy.

“In general I am with the liberty of all individuals,” Arra said. “But when you look at a pandemic that has the potential and has caused the deaths of thousands of people, and the liberty of all of us has been taken away through restrictions and lockdowns and wearing a mask, well the solution is getting a vaccine that has been proven to be effective and safe.”

Arra said it’s possible those who choose not to get vaccinated won’t be able to attend the same events as vaccinated individuals, could face more restrictions, and generally face more issues trying to resume a normal day-to-day life.

“It becomes a matter of public health ethics. Is it really fair to take away the freedom of the entire population with a lockdown against the other option of having a few of us required to have a vaccine to attend certain activities?” Arra said. “It’s not that you’re asking a person to get the vaccine and force them to do it, it is still a choice, but it becomes more of an incentive.”

More than 100,000 people in Grey-Bruce are considered fully immunized with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

To vaccinate the remaining population, and reach the 90 per cent target, the Grey Bruce Health Unit and its vaccine partners are planning more pop-up and drive-through clinics. They’re planning to bring the vaccine to people at malls, gyms, clubs and bars, movie theatres, parks, sporting events and more.


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The health unit is also adapting its communication plan, Arra said, and using social media and local partners to target youth with their vaccine messaging.

“It’s like losing weight. If a person wants to lose 40 pounds they might be able to lose the first 30 per cent effortlessly, but if you want to lose the last 10 pounds, those are the difficult ones,” Arra said.

The health unit is also working to break down knowledge barriers. Arra said some people may not feel comfortable using the systems in place to book an appointment, or are simply unable to. Some people may not trust the health care system or vaccines in general.

“We are just going to have to meet people where they’re at and provide information and access when it’s needed,” he said.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit reported seven new COVID-19 cases Friday.

The newest cases were found in Saugeen First Nation (2) South Bruce Peninsula (2) Owen Sound, Chatsworth and West Grey.

As of the latest 24-hour reporting period, ending just before midnight Thursday, there were 69 active and confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region and 210 high-risk contacts.

Five COVID-19 patients are in hospital locally and one other Grey-Bruce resident is receiving care outside of the region.

Eighteen Grey-Bruce residents have died with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

To date, 2,111 infections have been confirmed in Grey-Bruce including those in 107 health care workers. Of those, 2,021 cases are now considered resolved.

The Grey Bruce Health Unit has now administered 214,000 COVID-19 vaccines including 4,851 in the past seven days.

Public health units throughout Ontario reported 226 new COVID-19 cases Friday and 11 additional virus-related deaths.

The seven-day average for the number of cases reported in Ontario was 170, up from the 160 reported the previous Friday and the 151 reported a week before.

There are currently 117 patients with COVID-19 being treated in an intensive care unit. Of those patients, 77 are breathing with the assistance of a ventilator.

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