COVID-19 vaccination rates lower in Windsor-Essex compared to Ontario average

Windsor-Essex is lagging behind when it comes to COVID-19 booster vaccinations. As of Jan. 4, only 47.6 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents have received their third dose. Fourth dose uptake is even lower, with only 19.9 per cent of residents receiving the jab.

Low uptake comes as new, more infectious subvariant emerges in U.S.

COVID-19 booster vaccination in Windsor-Essex is lower than the provincial average by about three per cent, according to data from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

Despite continuing spread of COVID-19 and deaths still being reported, few people in Windsor-Essex are opting to get booster shots.

According to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), only 47.6 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents have received their third dose, as of Jan. 4. Fourth dose uptake is lower, with only 19.9 per cent of residents receiving the jab.

Both totals are roughly three percentage points lower than the provincial average.

Windsor-Essex's acting medical officer of health calls it "concerning."

"I recognize that we are now in the third year of the pandemic, but our best way to manage the pandemic and to manage COVID-19 is to minimize the burden of disease in the community," said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai. "Getting vaccinated is a key component to trying to prevent or reduce the burden of illness on the community overall."

A man with black hair wearing a black suit with a blue shirt and a red and black striped tie and glasses
Dr. Shanker Nesathurai is the acting medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex. He says low COVID-19 booster vaccine uptake is 'concerning,' especially with a highly contagious subvariant of the virus emerging in the U.S. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Nesathurai's advice comes as a new, more infectious subvariant called XBB.1.5 is driving up case counts in the U.S. Known as the "Kraken" variant, the subvariant is causing an estimated 28 per cent of cases south of the border, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. agency also says that Monroe County in Michigan is seeing high levels of COVID-19.

Dr. Wassim Saad, chief of staff at Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH), said during a hospital board meeting Thursday that he believes the "highly infectious and highly transmissible" subvariant of Omicron is already in Windsor.

"We are going to be one of the first areas in Canada to see a variant like this enter our community," he said, citing Windsor being a border community.

Nesathurai said disease activity is increasing in Windsor-Essex in January so far compared to all of December. COVID-19 indicators such as the number of cases, the percentage of positive cases, and the number of hospitalizations are increasing, and there has been six deaths. Nesathurai said disease activity tends to increase as the winter rolls on.

WECHU offering shots throughout the county

WECHU is aiming to drive up vaccination rates at pop-up clinics across the county. A clinic in Leamington saw people come out to receive their vaccinations.

"We're excited to welcome the community in for, generally, their booster vaccines," said Laura Strathdee, director of clinical practice for the Windsor Essex Community Health Centre (weCHC) in Leamington. "We try to offer two weekend clinics a month to make vaccines accessible for those that work Monday to Friday or need weekend access."

Sunday's pop-up clinic also saw some migrant workers arrive on a bus at 11 a.m. Strathdee said she tries to bring buses full of migrant workers to receive their vaccinations every Sunday.

A women wearing a face mask and a black t-shirt which shows all the vaccination she has received
Laura Strathdee is the director of clinical practice for the Windsor Essex Community Health Centre in Leamington. She helps bring in buses of migrant workers to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

"We have a great relationship with the farms to get them vaccinated," she said. "We bring in language support, nursing staff and providers that speak their language so that we can do a great job answering all their questions. Doses in other countries don't always match here so it's a bit more labour-intensive to find what they got and get them on track here."

Some workers are happy to receive the vaccines and they recognize the importance of getting it.

"It's very important to get the vaccine because the situation is getting worse in some areas and countries," said Benjae Ondoy, a migrant worker from the Philippines.

Three men with black hair wearing black jackets standing beside each other
Bryan Tiamsim, Benjae Ondoy and Dave Amada, left to right, are migrant workers from the Philippines. They say it is important to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because cases are rising in certain parts of the world, including the Philippines. (TJ Dhir/CBC)

Ondoy and his friends Bryan Tiamsim and Dave Amada, who are also from the Philippines, say the situation is getting worse in their homeland, saying a vaccination card is required to go to some public places.


  • This story has been updated to reflect revised information on the spread of XBB.1.5 from the U.S. CDC.
    Jan 09, 2023 1:15 PM ET


TJ Dhir


TJ is a journalist with CBC News in Windsor. You can reach him at

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