It was announced Friday morning that the province will proceed with administering the second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said anyone who has received their first dose should contact the pharmacy or provider where it was given for more information on scheduling a second dose.
Second doses are, however, only open to those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 10 to March 19.
Young Hoon adds that generally no one in the catchment area should have received AstraZeneca during that period and the province is planning to release more information about the second dose for those who received the vaccine at a later date.
There are currently 29 active cases in the region, one in the Atikokan health hub, five in the Dryden health hub, one in the Fort Frances health hub, seven in the Kenora health hub and 15 in the Sioux Lookout health hub.
The Ontario government announced a new three-step plan to reopen the province and it is highly based on vaccination coverage rates. Young Hoon said she highly encourages everyone to get vaccinated as it is expected that the region will enter step one of the plan the week of June 14. However, this requires a 60 per cent vaccine coverage rate.
“If anyone is hesitant to get the vaccine, I can assure you that it is safe and effective and by getting it you are helping yourself and your community,” Young Hoon said.
Young Hoon said they are concerned that young people have heard that there are links to fertility issues with the vaccine. She adds that this is false information, and the vaccine does not impact fertility, including those who are on any form of birth control.
While many were hoping the province would look at reopening’s regionally, Young Hoon said she agrees with the plan. However, Young Hoon adds that there are some things the province should have considered regionally such as the reopening of retail stores.
“One of the things that’s always been different for our region is that retail settings are not necessarily a high-risk situation in our catchment area because we don’t have the same type of crowded retail setting that occurs in southern Ontario,” Young Hoon said. “So that might be something that could be a bit different for our region.”
Before step one of the plan has even come into effect, the province allowed outdoor activates to reopen on Saturday. Young Hoon said this is a good starting point.
“We do know that by being outside, there’s reduced risk and for outdoor activities such as tennis, soccer the risk is relatively low because you’re able to maintain a physical distance,” Young Hoon said. “It is a good to allow people to take a break from having to be inside all the time or having to self-isolate, as well as it also encourages physical activity and improved mental health.”
The NWHU is getting closer to reaching the 60 per cent vaccine coverage rate with nearly 43,000 doses of the COVID-19 given out. Young Hoon said there are still spaces for individuals to book their vaccine appointment.
The NWHU had a number of walk-in vaccine clinics last week and Young Hoon said they are trying it on a temporary basis if appointment clinics are not full. Young Hoon adds that depending on their experiences with the walk-in vaccine clinic they may adjust their model to allow more of them but that at this point they are still trying to get a sense of its effectiveness.
Young Hoon adds that for walk-in vaccine clinics, people need to bring their health card, follow public health measures and should be prepared to line up for a period of time.
At this time, the second dose of the vaccine is scheduled for 16 weeks after the first dose with some exceptions to that policy for certain individuals. Young Hoon said she thinks the province is looking to possibly reduce that time, but it depends on vaccine supply.
Young Hoon said it usually takes two weeks for a dose to ramp up its protection.
The first dose of the vaccine usually has about 60 per cent to 80 per cent protection, Young Hoon said, adding that two weeks after the second dose you usually get about 90 per cent or more protection.
While the first dose does provide adequate protection, Young Hoon said it is still important to continue following public health measures.