SMDHU planning for closure of mass COVID immunization clinics by late August

Health unit says rapid vaccination is occurring

Another sign the region might be rounding the corner on COVID.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit said in a statement on Tuesday that with efficient case and contact management response in place, and rapid vaccination occurring, the health unit is now actively planning with its partners for the closure of its mass immunization clinics by late August.

Health officials say as Ontario enters its second week of Step 3 in the province’s Roadmap to Reopen, Simcoe Muskoka continues to see low COVID-19 case counts and ever-increasing vaccination coverage.

As of July 26, the total per cent of Simcoe Muskoka residents vaccinated with their first dose was 68.3 per cent and those with their second dose was 53.5 per cent. At the same time, the weekly number of new COVID-19 cases in the area remains low at 23 cases during the week of July 18.

“These numbers show a trend in the right direction,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, Medical Officer of Health for Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “But it will require that everyone continues to practice the public health measures still in place to help prevent any further spread of the virus in our communities, and it will take a very high coverage of full vaccination. Although much of our eligible population has received at least their first dose of vaccine, I encourage anyone who has not yet been fully vaccinated to receive a first and second dose as soon as possible.”

The mass immunization clinics have been operating since the end of December 2020. Individuals with appointments booked after August 27 will be notified and encouraged to move up their appointments or attend a walk-in clinic.

“Although mass immunization clinics will close by the end of August, COVID-19 vaccines will still be widely available to eligible individuals through other avenues, such as community pharmacies, health care providers and other pop-up clinic opportunities that will continue after August,” said Dr. Gardner. 

With the wind-down of mass immunization clinics and the reduced incidence of COVID-19 cases in Simcoe Muskoka, the health unit is also planning for the reduction in casual staff who were hired on contract to assist with COVID-19 immunization, case and contact management, and outbreak response.

“I want to take this opportunity to publicly recognize all our employees; those who have been with us for a long time and those who joined us specifically to help with the COVID-19 response,” stated Dr. Gardner. “I applaud their dedication and tremendous contributions in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to helping the people of Simcoe Muskoka to be safe and healthy throughout this unprecedented health crisis.” 

On Tuesday, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit reported five new cases of COVID-19 across the region. There were another four recoveries in the day’s report and no new deaths. To date, 68.4% of Simcoe-Muskokans 12+ have gotten their first shot, 54.1% their second.

Public Health Ontario reported 129 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, along with 158 more recoveries and 5 additional deaths. There were 92,035 vaccines administered across the province yesterday, and 13,644 tests were processed.

For more information about the health unit’s response to COVID-19, visit smdhu.org/covid19.