Health Unit reaches 97 per cent vaccination rate among staff, 81 per cent among population

Many new COVID cases last week were among kids aged 12 and under

No surprise: the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) says its staff have a high vaccine uptake.

Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health with the SMDHU, said on Wednesday that all staff at the health unit were required to show proof of vaccination or a valid exemption by last Friday. “When we look at our data now, we note we have 97 per cent of our staff having submitted evidence of vaccination,” said Gardner, adding the remainder fall under either medical exemption or human rights exemption.

Gardner went on to say they continue the final push to vaccinate 90 per cent of the local population. As of Tuesday, 86 per cent of Simcoe-Muskoka residents aged 12 and up have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine and 81 per cent are fully vaxxed.

Dr. Gardner notes that 31 per cent of cases last week were among children under the age of 12. “They cannot be immunized. They have remained a vulnerable group through the pandemic but in particular, during this fourth wave, we’ve seen a higher proportion of our cases being among children,” he noted.

“It certainly speaks to the importance of immunization because we are seeing a pattern where it’s those who aren’t immunized, and in the case of young children, can’t be immunized, who are representing the majority of our cases,” he continued. “It really tells you that if we didn’t have the high vaccination rate that we have now, we would be seeing many, many more cases than we are now.”

Meanwhile, the SMDHU says it recently completed an education and compliance blitz with the province and local police services. Overall, 240 businesses were visited within a three-day period ending on October 6. “Businesses visited included restaurants, gyms and fitness facilities,” said Dr. Gardner. “The top three most common issues noted were with regards to the need for screening, capacity limits and safety plans.”

Three charges were laid, but Gardner couldn’t immediately provide details on the nature of the charges.

Gardner added that a letter of instruction is expected later this week, requiring all coaches, officials, and others who work in youth sports be vaccinated.