Health officials monitor how reopening affects unvaccinated Ottawa residents

Almost one-third of Ottawa's population remains unvaccinated against COVID-19 as concerns about the delta variant grow around the world, and local health officials say the threat of COVID-19 remains.

City says there are 132,000 children younger than 12 who still can't receive the vaccine

Someone approaches the open door of an Ottawa COVID-19 vaccination clinic in June. The city has seen a decrease in the rate of residents getting vaccinated. (Brian Morris/CBC)

Almost one-third of Ottawa's population remains unvaccinated against COVID-19 as concerns about the delta variant grow around the world, and local health officials say the threat of a resurgence remains.

Wednesday's update from Ottawa Public Health showed 71 per cent of Ottawa's total population has at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 50 per cent have been fully vaccinated.

That is positive news, officials say, but that still leaves around 300,000 residents without the first dose, which includes those younger than 12 who are not yet eligible.

"The pandemic is not over," Dr. Brent Moloughney, Ottawa's deputy medical officer of health, told reporters Wednesday.

Moloughney said the city and the province will monitor how the situation progresses as Ontario moves into Step 3 of its reopening plan Friday, especially given an increase in cases around the world when they began to reopen.

"Even though the case counts are low now and our vaccine rates are going up, there's still the possibility of a resurgence," he said.

"The experience that we've seen in other countries that have opened up ... is cautionary for us."

Ottawa has been a success story for vaccinating youth age 12 to 17. As of Wednesday, 80 per cent had one dose and 24 per cent were fully vaccinated, which leads all provincial health units.

The city's hands are tied as they await plans for children younger than 12. That group adds up to about 132,000, which is a "sizeable chunk" of those unvaccinated, according to Moloughney.

This combined bar and line graph shows vaccination numbers for Ottawa residents ranging from age 12 to older than 80. Every age group is well above 75 per cent with at least one dose except for two: ages 18 to 29 and 30 to 39. (Ottawa Public Health)

Planning for fall

That challenge could affect the reopening of schools this fall as the weather starts to cool, people spend more time indoors, and children return to class.

Moloughney says that's why anyone who can be vaccinated now, needs to be, which will help avoid a potential surge in cases come September.

"The more we have the community protected with high vaccine rates, as well as other preventive measures, the less community transmission we're going to have," he said.

"Then the less opportunity for children to become infected in the community and to import the infections into schools."

Despite the push for people to get their first and second doses, the city has seen a slowdown in vaccine uptake at its 11 community clinics.

Anthony Di Monte, who's leading Ottawa's vaccine task force, says the city has considered closing a clinic or two, but not permanently.

He also assured the city would not create barriers for those who need the vaccine.


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