Ottawa

Despite 'real barriers', Etches hopeful Ottawa can hit 90% fully vaccinated

Ottawa's medical officer of health says she's optimistic the city will reach its ambitious target of 90 per cent fully vaccinated from COVID-19, even with "real barriers" around vaccine accessibility and hesitancy still blocking the way.

83 per cent of eligible residents have had at least one dose

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health, says the city can reach the lofty goal of 90 per cent of the population fully vaccinated. As of July 29, 61 per cent of the total population was fully vaccinated. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Ottawa's medical officer of health says she's optimistic the city will reach its ambitious COVID-19 vaccination target even with "real barriers" around vaccine accessibility and hesitancy still blocking the way.

Ottawa public health officials have said their aim is to fully vaccinate 90 per cent of the city's population in order to reach herd immunity.

As of Thursday, the Ottawa Public Health vaccination dashboard showed 83 per cent of residents 12 and older have had one vaccine dose — unchanged over the past week — while 70 per cent had received both doses.

If you include children younger than 12 who are not yet eligible, 61 per cent of Ottawa's total population is fully vaccinated.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, Dr. Vera Etches said they are still trying to reach people unsure about the merits of vaccination, while also making it as "convenient as possible" for those who want a shot but haven't been able to get one.

"There are still real barriers for some," said Etches. "We've talked to people who aren't immunized yet. We're trying to understand what those barriers are. And they have been child care. There's still transportation [issues]."

To overcome those sorts of obstacles, Etches urged local businesses and organizations to request a visit from one of the health unit's mobile vaccination clinics.

About 20 groups signed up when the program launched last week, and more than 50 clinics have been dispatched in total, she said.

WATCH: Dr. Vera Etches urges compassion when talking to vaccine-hesitant residents:

OPH urges compassion when talking to vaccine-hesitant residents

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Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, says residents should avoid judging friends or family members who are hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and instead have a calm conversation about their questions and concerns. 0:43

School year approaching

Since young children don't yet qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine, Etches said the best way to ensure their safety is for people to roll up their sleeves if they are eligible to be vaccinated.

With the start of school for many only six weeks away, now's the time for anyone lacking their first dose to go get one, Etches pointed out, in order to be fully vaccinated by the return of in-person classes.

Etches also noted the delta variant that has fueled COVID-19 resurgences in places like the United Kingdom still accounts for a small minority of cases in Ottawa — only 45 of the 9,140 total confirmed or suspected variants of concern reported in Ottawa, or 0.5 per cent.

While COVID-19 will likely reach an "endemic" state where it circulates in the community but doesn't overwhelm the health-care system, Etches said vaccines still need to be combined with mask-wearing rules to keep transmission rates low.

"We absolutely have more protection from severe disease because of the vaccine, but we still have 30 per cent of our population that is not vaccinated, and most of our population is not yet immune either," Etches said.

"And that is a large enough population to still have exponential growth."

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