Children rolling up their sleeves for vaccines

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer
memara@fortfrances.com

Children aged five to 11 are getting ready to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU), said since the health unit announced eligibility criteria, they had 2,000 bookings in their appointment system over the first two days.

“Of those new appointments approximately 1,200 are children aged five to 11,” Young Hoon said.

As of Monday morning 6.4 per cent of children in Ontario aged five to 11 have had one dose of the vaccine. This number is a tad lower in the northwestern region with 4.6 per cent of the five to 11 year olds vaccinated, due to vaccines arriving late.

“I encourage anyone who’s eligible for a first, second or booster dose of the vaccine to make an appointment with one of our clinics, at a pharmacy or with a healthcare provider,” Young Hoon added.

About 135,384 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given in our region. Young Hoon said they currently have 90.1 per cent of people in the region aged 12 and older with one dose and 85.7 per cent with two doses. About 6.1 per cent have had a third or a booster dose.

Young Hoon said with the Omicron variant being detected in the province, both the federal and provincial governments continue to work together to ensure the safety of residents.

“Measures include travel restrictions, increasing testing for those who have traveled to areas where a new variant has been found and screening all positive samples for the variant,” Young Hoon said. “In addition, we must all practice prevention measures including getting a first, second or booster dose of the vaccine when eligible.”

This also comes as the requirements for re entry into Canada change as Canadians, permanent residents and those covered under the Indian Act and get Indian Act who are fully vaccinated and who re enter Canada within 72 hours of leaving will no longer have to provide a PCR test result.

This also applies to children under 12, regardless of their vaccines, Young Hoon said.

However, Young Hoon said she advises people to be cognizant of travel destinations, adding that Minnesota has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infection in North America.

Young Hoon said she recommends that local residents avoid travel to high risk areas for non-essential reasons at this time.

“For those who decide to travel, remember that your destination may have different public health measures than Ontario, which could put you at greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 while we practice all precautions to prevent infection and avoid large indoor gatherings,” Young Hoon said.

With 17 active COVID-19 cases, Young Hoon said the new variant of concern and the fact that the region is seeing an increase in cases in neighbouring jurisdictions, people should be very mindful of risk, mindful of where they’re traveling to and what type of interactions they’re having.

“We are encouraging everyone to be aware of the risks and practice public health measures as best as you can,” Young Hoon said. “Physical distancing and masking indoors is key. Getting vaccinated is a great way of protecting yourself and others.”