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Vaccination rates increasing, number of people at-risk could still drive 'significant wave'

The health unit is working to be ready to go once the COVID-19 vaccine is approved for children five to 11 years
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While Dr. Lianne Catton is happy with the COVID-19 vaccination rates in the region, having at least 30,000 people unvaccinated could still drive a "significant wave" locally.

Catton, the Porcupine Health Unit medical officer of health, gave an update on the state of the pandemic locally today, including behind-the-scenes planning to vaccinate younger children once there is approval.

Over the last couple of weeks, she said there has been an increase in cases.

“We have been seeing a slight increase, the cases have been just slowly trickling in - we haven’t seen huge numbers but we’re definitely seeing a trend in increasing in our region,” she said.

So far in the region, there have been 2,208 confirmed cases of the virus. Of those, 2,163 are recovered and 31 people have died. There are 14 known active cases — three in Timmins and 11 in the area of Cochrane, Matheson, Iroquois Falls and Smooth Rock Falls. The last new case was reported on Saturday.

“Keeping in mind that’s usually the tip of the iceberg. There’s often plenty of high-risk contacts that are being followed and monitored with any of these cases,” she said.

Vaccination rates are also increasing locally.

As of Sept. 26, 85.3 per cent of people in the region 12 years and over had received their first dose. For second doses, 77 per cent of the eligible people have received it.

Catton said these rates are "incredibly fantastic."

She said the evidence is clear that the vaccines work at preventing COVID-19 infections and work against the variants.

Provincially, she said unvaccinated people are 24 times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 43 times more likely to be admitted to ICU.

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is only available for people 12 years and up.

“We’re really working on being ready to go once we hear the approval has come forward from Health Canada and so we’re expected some time this fall and that’s what we’re working towards at this point,” she said.

Having the vaccine available to more people could help get the region closer to the goal of having 90 per cent of the population vaccinated.

Right now, just over 53,000 people have been vaccinated in the region.

That number also includes people from out of town who may have received it while in the region.

With the population in the health unit region being around 83,000 people, Catton said there is a concern that at least 30,000 people, if not more, are not vaccinated.

She said there is still a significant number of people who are at-risk "that really could drive a significant wave across the region”.

After faring well through the first couple of waves of the virus in the region, the Porcupine Health Unit was hard hit in the third wave.

“And I think that sense of comfort or complacency is potentially what could put us at risk at well,” she said

Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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