Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit preparing hesitancy outreach program to bolster trailing vaccine numbers

Simcoe-Muskoka seeing third lowest rate of fully vaccinated adults in Ontario

Simcoe-Muskoka appears to be behind the eight-ball on its vaccination program, but the region’s top doctor says steps will be taken to correct that.

As of Tuesday, 67.6 per cent of Simcoe-Muskoka residents aged 12 and up have gotten their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s a number that has been creeping up very slowly, and medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner wants to change that. “We want to do all that we can here in Simcoe-Muskoka to get people vaccinated with their first and their second dose as quickly as possible,” he said during a Tuesday media briefing.

Gardner points out that Simcoe-Muskoka received fewer doses throughout the vaccination effort as the region saw fewer COVID-19 cases than others. “On the whole, we’ve not been a health unit with designated hotspots,” he said. “And the volume of vaccine we’ve been receiving has been lower to allow those other health units to get vaccines sooner. So that has helped to put us in the position we’re in.”

While Simcoe-Muskoka received fewer doses than some other areas in Ontario, folks from outside the region did roll up their sleeve for a shot. “We are a destination of choice for people, for secondary residences, for cottage use, and for vacationing,” Gardner commented. “We’ve found that we are a net provider of vaccines for people from out of district, that 11,500 more doses have been administered here to people from out of district versus the additional doses that our citizens might have received.”

To help increase the number of people who get their first dose, Gardner says the health unit is taking a number of steps. “We do conduct pop-up clinics as opportunities to increase vaccination,” he said. “And they’ve been highly successful as a way of giving local residents more of an opportunity to get vaccinated beyond the provincial booking system.”

Gardner says a more concentrated push for those hesitant to get vaccinated should be expected in the coming days. “As we prepare to do outreach more and more to the hesitant, with people who have difficulty coming to our clinics, we have done assessment and prepared for a campaign that we will launch next week that will specifically address the vaccination issues that our own citizens have noted to try and overcome that hesitancy.” Gardner added the health unit has recruited youths to serve as social media ambassadors to encourage other kids to seek out a vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported two new cases of COVID-19 across the region, with 12,336 cases to date. Of those, 12,056 are listed as recovered, an increase of 429 from the day before. There were no new deaths reported, while 255 people have died of COVID-19 in Simcoe-Muskoka to date.

Province-wide, Public Health Ontario reported 127 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. There were also 126 more recoveries and 2 additional deaths. There were 132,963 vaccines administered across the province yesterday, and 13,586 tests processed.