Proof of vaccination might spike immunization rates, says region’s top doctor

Dr. Charles Gardner says vaccination coverage in younger age groups needs to improve

Simcoe Muskoka Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner is hopeful requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination to go to a slew of non-essential businesses will result in an uptick in immunization rates.

The certificate program begins on Sept. 22.

Ontario residents will be required to show proof they are double-dosed against the virus in order to eat in restaurants, go to the gym, or to nightclubs, bars, casinos, strip clubs, and attend concerts and sporting events.

“It’s one of the jurisdictions that can substantially increase the number of people coming forward for immunization,” said Gardner. “We might find the pace of immunization picks up.”

He said vaccination coverage in younger age groups needs to improve.

In seniors, 93 per cent have had a second dose in Simcoe Muskoka, according to Gardner, and that drops to 63.5% in children 12 to 17 years of age, while in the 18 to 29 age bracket, nearly 57 per cent have received their second dose.

“These are the ages that remain vulnerable and the ages which we really need to help increase coverage to make for a safe work environment, a safe school environment, and safer communities.”

Simcoe Muskoka had more COVID cases in August than in June and July combined.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported 50 new infections on Wednesday. Of those, nine cases are in people who are fully vaccinated.

Children are making up a larger portion of cases during this fourth wave, said Gardner. In children zero to 11 years of age, they make up 16 per cent of all of the cases in Simcoe Muskoka. In the third wave, nine per cent of all cases were children and six per cent in January.

Simcoe Muskoka sits 15th among 34 Ontario public health units in terms of the number of residents who have received two doses of vaccine.