Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday July 8, 2021
First-dose COVID-19 vaccinations plateau across Canada, threatening path to variant resilience
The number of people getting their first COVID-19 vaccine doses is plateauing across the country, heightening the need to target harder-to-reach groups if Canada is going to achieve the vaccination levels needed to control the spread of infection.
As of Monday, 78 per cent of those eligible to be vaccinated in Canada have received at least one dose, and 41 per cent were fully vaccinated, making the country one of the most immunized in the world. Among the Group of Seven nations, Canada ranks second next to Britain with the highest number of doses administered per 100 people.
However, within provinces and territories, there are pockets with low vaccination rates across the country.
In the High Level health unit in northern Alberta, for example, 21 per cent of the eligible population had received at least one dose, and in Manitoba, 19 per cent of the eligible population in the municipality of Stanley had received at least one dose.
While the number of people receiving second doses continues to climb, those receiving their first doses have stalled at fewer than 100,000 a day since June 20.
With the rise of more transmissible variants, some epidemiologists estimate at least 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the eligible population will need to be fully vaccinated to keep COVID-19 rates under control.
Reaching those levels will be critical as we head into the fall, when people start spending more time indoors again at the same time the highly infectious Delta variant is expected to become the dominant variant of the virus in most of the country, said Cordell Neudorf, professor in the department of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.
“That’s when we expect the next wave to hit, unless we get high enough immunization coverage,” Dr. Neudorf said.
Now that those most willing and able to get immunized have received at least one vaccine, health authorities must ramp up their efforts to vaccinate groups that are more difficult to reach, said Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist and professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan.
And that will require different targeted approaches, he said, since those who remain unvaccinated are a heterogenous group. They include people who are willing to be vaccinated but have difficulty accessing clinics, individuals who have lingering questions about the safety of vaccines and those who refuse to be vaccinated altogether.
The latter, whose refusal is generally ideologically driven, are a minority, making up an estimated 10 per cent of the population, Dr. Muhajarine said. Another 12 per cent to 14 per cent of Saskatchewan adults he has been tracking say they are hesitant about getting vaccinated.
“It’s the hesitant group that we need to be able to convert get a vaccine,” he said. “They’re not saying they would not get one, but they’re also saying they will not readily line up, be the first in line.” (Globe & Mail)