DELHI – Those experiencing vaccine hesitancy during the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could be suffering from a terminal condition.
Sarah Page, Norfolk’s head of paramedic services and co-ordinator of the vaccine rollout in Norfolk and Haldimand, says the vaccines available to fight COVID-19 may not prevent recipients from getting sick but they are effective at reducing the severity of symptoms.
That’s important, she said, now that variants of the original virus have emerged and are having a significant impact on young people – a group that emerged from the first and second waves of the pandemic largely unscathed.
“The vaccines produce a level of protection that you don’t have on your own,” Page said Wednesday during a tour of the mass-vaccination clinic in Delhi that opens Friday.
“The variants-of-concern are running rampant through our young people and that’s a concern for us. The variants-of-concern are causing more hospitalization and more serious illness than the original virus and in a younger population. It’s our healthy 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds and 30-year-olds that are getting very sick.”
Page has received reports that the mortality rate for individuals who end up in intensive care with variant symptoms is as high as 30 per -cent.
The opening of the clinic in Delhi is a sign that vaccine-availability in Norfolk and Haldimand and Canada in general is ramping up. Page and her team are prepared to scale up the delivery of vaccines as quickly as the federal government can get them into Canada and distribute them to the provinces.
Officials expect to vaccinate 12 individuals every 10 minutes during peak periods at the new clinic at the Delhi arena.
Page and her team are administering the Pfizer vaccine at clinics in Delhi, Vittoria and Cayuga. Local doctors and pharmacies are booking appointments for the Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine.
Page says the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines require a booster shot for complete protection between 35 and 120 days after the first dose. Only the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is rated for a one-and-done visit.
There have been reports in recent weeks connecting the AstraZeneca vaccine to blood-clot reactions in a statistically-small number of recipients. Canadian health authorities have not suspended its use, but age restrictions are in place.
Given the severity of the variants-of-concern and the rapidity with which they are spreading, health authorities recommend the public take whatever approved vaccine is offered to them.
“We’re not suggesting that people vaccine shop,” Joanna Cornish, a spokesperson for Norfolk County, said at the Delhi clinic. “We suggest that – if a pharmacy calls and says the AstraZeneca vaccine is available – that you take it.”
Page and her team are determined to ensure that no vaccine goes to waste. For whatever reason, some people are unable to keep scheduled appointments and prepared vaccine will accumulate toward the end of a shift. When that happens, the team will contact individuals on their standby list who can appear at a vaccination centre on short notice.
The team in Norfolk and Haldimand is focussed on individuals 65 years of age and up and members of designated, high-risk groups.
However, effective Wednesday, April 7, those aged 60 to 64 can place their name on a standby list provided they are prepared to drop what they are doing when notified and drive to their vaccination immediately.
The health unit reports more than 20,000 people in the local health district have received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccination. This represents more than 21 per cent of all adults in Norfolk and Haldimand.
Information on registering for a shot is available at the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit website, which is https://hnhu.org . Information is also available by calling 519-427-5903.