Hospital services

Vaccine demand drops in Huron-Perth as hospital services slowly resume

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The Huron and Perth Counties Public Health Unit is preparing to scale back its COVID-19 vaccination clinics next month.

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The region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Miriam Klassen, briefed reporters on the decision at a press conference on March 2.

“We don’t see a lot of new people starting a series of vaccines,” she said.

Huron Perth Public Health noted a drop in demand for shots in January. Klassen said many factors could contribute, but officials don’t believe access to clinics has been an issue.

“We’ve worked really hard with a lot of great partners to make sure people have access,” she said. “There’s been a lot of outreach to make sure everyone who wants a vaccine can get one.”

Instead, Klassen suggested that the region’s high vaccination rates are more telling.

Nearly 85% of Huron-Perth residents over the age of five have at least one dose while 81% are fully immunized, according to health unit figures.

Just over 60% of adults 19 and older received a booster, including over 93% of residents 70 and older.

Among Huron-Perth youth between the ages of five and 11, the slowest demographic to become eligible for vaccines, 48% have received a dose and 28% are fully vaccinated.

“Thank you, Huron-Perth, for making vaccination a priority,” Klassen said. “By doing this, you really helped break the chains of transmission. You’ve helped keep hospitalizations manageable. You have helped save lives.

Huron Perth Public Health has recently held more clinics in smaller communities in the area. Those efforts will continue through March, Klassen said.

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Going forward, the health unit will not cut its vaccination clinics entirely. Injections will also continue to be available at pharmacies and primary care providers.

“We’re going to continue to promote vaccination in the future, and we’re going to make sure everyone is very informed if there’s a new variant…or new vaccines,” Klassen said. “We know this virus is not going to go away. This is going to be with us for a while so I continue to encourage anyone who can to get vaccinated. This is the best way to develop immunity without risking serious consequences if infected.

Although Ontario eased another part of the public health measures on March 1, Klassen said the virus was still circulating “at fairly high levels” and warned that health care capacity had still not slackened. fully recovered from the Omicron wave of the pandemic.

“Hospitals are struggling to restart surgeries and clear backlogs, but staff absenteeism rates are still high in the health sector,” she said. “We still haven’t returned to controlled transmission.”

Andrew Williams, chief executive of the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance, confirmed that his hospital group – which includes Stratford, St. Marys, Clinton and Seaforth – was recently allowed to increase service levels to around 70% of its pre- pandemic.

About 40 hospital workers were off work on March 2 due to COVID.

“We’re cautious,” Williams said. “We are delighted, like everyone else, to see the measures eased, but we must be responsible and continue to focus on putting safety first.”