Millennials need to get their vaccine, Renfrew County's top doctor says

An eastern Ontario health official says the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations for people between the ages of 18 to 45 has fallen behind.

Dr. Robert Cushman says residents between the ages of 18 and 45 lag behind other groups

Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the Renfrew County and District Public Health Unit, warns people between the ages of 18 and 45 need to step up and get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Renfrew County and District Health Unit/YouTube)

An eastern Ontario health official says the rate of COVID-19 vaccinations for people between the ages of 18 to 45 has fallen behind.

Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, praised the area's residents for reaching the threshold of 70 per cent of eligible adults with one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

He didn't have kind words for residents between the ages of 18 and 45, though.

"They're even doing worse than the teenagers who only signed on a few weeks ago," said Cushman, adding less than half of that demographic has the first dose.

"After the age of 45, it goes up to two-thirds, three-quarters, and even on up."

In a video posted to the public health unit's YouTube page, Cushman told the group, which consists mostly of millennials, in addition to others a little younger and older, to "roll up your sleeve and get vaccinated."

Cushman said most of the recent positive cases of COVID-19 in the region have been among people in this age group.

"The virus can create havoc in this age group and in particular these new variants are much more transmissible and they're much more dangerous," Cushman said.

This chart shows the percentage of each demographic living in Renfrew County that has received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Renfrew County and District Health Unit)

Uptake in Ottawa slowest for adults younger than 40

Ottawa Public Health said vaccine uptake in Ottawa is slowest among those between the ages of 18 and 39 as the total number of first doses has levelled off recently.

On Wednesday, OPH reported 61 per cent of those 18-29 had the first dose, a percentage matched by a rapidly vaccinated group between the ages of 12 and 17.

For those aged 30-39, 64 per cent have received the first dose. The older demographics all have at least 80 per cent with at least one dose in Ottawa.

"Ottawa Public Health believes it very important that this group get vaccinated as soon as possible," it said in a statement.

According to the latest available data, around 69 per cent of eligible residents in Renfrew County have at least the first dose of the vaccine, while that number is 76 per cent in Ottawa.

Like in Ottawa, the daily number of people receiving their second shots in Renfrew County has recently surpassed the number of people receiving their first.

Herd immunity likely out of reach, experts say

Experts say a slowdown in first doses — while expected as more people become eligible for their second — increases the likelihood some areas won't achieve herd immunity.

Herd immunity is the point where so many people are protected from the virus that it will largely die out due to a lack of hosts to infect — offering indirect protection to the entire population, even those who are not immunized.

Earlier in the pandemic, experts estimated that 70 per cent of people would need to be fully vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. Those estimates have been revised upward to 80 or even close to 90 per cent, in part, because of the increased transmissibility of COVID-19 variants such as the Delta variant first identified in India. 

University of Ottawa epidemiologist Raywat Deonandan said the goal of reaching full herd immunity is becoming less and less likely due to a combination of more virulent variants, vaccine hesitancy and a large portion of the population (children under 12) being ineligible.

Even still, Deonandan said high rates of vaccination will still produce "herd effects."

"We will get to a normalized-looking society without reaching herd immunity. But the more people vaccinated, the more likely that becomes, and the less suffering that will be," Deonandan said. 

Deonandan said outbreaks will still continue to happen, particularly among populations that are unvaccinated, but they will be manageable and less likely to overload the health system.


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