The obstacle to full recovery from the pandemic: ‘pockets’ of unvaccinated Canadians –

“The devil is in the details” is an expression that fits perfectly with Canada’s vaccination strategy, as what looks good on a national map tends to look less positive the further one delves into regional and local areas. Nationwide, more than 88 percent of eligible residents have received at least one dose, according to the government data. But lower that vaccination rate for the entire population, including children who are currently ineligible, and that single-dose number drops to 78 percent. That means that more than one in five Canadians is not vaccinated.

Dig deeper into the data and a trend pops up: There are pockets of unvaccinated, both small and disconcertingly large. And those are the areas that continue to be hit hard by Delta, even when the total number of new cases in Canada it falls.

About half of that unvaccinated cohort are children who are still too young for vaccines. In Ontario, the under-20s group has the most active cases of COVID-19, 935 in total, while those from 30 to 39 are in second place with only 531 cases and the cohort over 80 years old that was previously most affected it has only 100 active cases.

Until children under the age of 12 are eligible for the vaccine, the focus should be on persuading older Canadians who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated, he says. Kevin Wilson, a Halifax-based epidemiologist who has been analyzing data on the pandemic since early 2020. At the end of October, that unvaccinated but eligible cohort was 5.5 million people, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

“The flip side of ‘vaccines work’ is that if you don’t use them, they don’t work,” he says bluntly. And especially as public health measures, which have been doing a heavy lifting of protecting people, are removed, those pockets are the epicenters of the current outbreaks.

Although federal data was last updated in late October, regional disparities are clear. Generally, vaccination levels drop when one travels west from the Canadian Atlantic. So while 86 percent of the entire population in Newfoundland and Labrador have received at least one dose, that proportion drops to 81 percent in New Brunswick, then 77 percent in Ontario, and then 72 and 73 percent in Saskatchewan and Alberta. , respectively, before rebounding to 79 percent in British Columbia.

Within provinces, there are even more pronounced disparities. In Alberta, which break down the rates By local geographic areas, 92 percent of eligible residents in the Sherwood Park area outside of Edmonton have received at least one dose, compared with 64 percent in St. Paul, just 175 km away. In contrast, Ontario’s 34 public health units have relatively similar vaccination rates. Ontario Government data for eligible residents ranges from a low of 84 percent in Renfrew and Lambton counties have a 98 percent dose in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District.

“Health care capacity is very much a local resource,” says Wilson. “It would be almost better if the unvaccinated were distributed in a small province in any province. That way, no local hospital will be overwhelmed. ”Instead, the unvaccinated are largely clustered in certain communities, interacting with each other, he says. When COVID-19 hits one of those pockets, the local hospital fills up with patients. .

In late September, Edson, Alta. was in the news, amid reports that many in the the small community was not taking the virus seriously. There was even an unconfirmed report of a “get-COVID” party. At the time, Edson’s vaccination rate was about 50 percent of eligible residents, compared to a province-wide rate of 73 percent. A week later, the number of local residents needing hospitalization due to COVID-19 increased, and Alberta Health Services suspended obstetric services at the local hospital, forcing pregnant women to go to other facilities, including Hinton, 90 km away.

Even the Canadian Atlantic has foci of higher levels of unvaccinated populations. One area is around Edmundston in northwest New Brunswick, which Wilson calls the province’s “troubled kids region” because it has had repeated outbreaks during the pandemic and has per capita case and death rates that are notably higher than in other regions. . Although the government does not disclose regional breakdowns in vaccination rates on your website, CBC News I got a map from mid-October showing that the area around Edmundston had some of the lowest rates in the province – only 65-70 percent of the eligible population there was vaccinated, compared to more than 80 percent for the province as a whole. (Vaccination rates are highest within the city of Edmundston itself.)

If rural residents believe their open areas are safer than densely populated cities when it comes to contracting COVID-19, Kevin Wilson has bad news for them. He tested that idea by processing data, comparing Nova Scotia, which has experienced a much less severe pandemic than most of Canada, with the less densely populated health regions of the country. His calculations showed that those rural areas had more than five times the number of cases and deaths as Nova Scotia, on a per capita basis. Even when the worst-affected Far North region of Saskatchewan is excluded and the remaining 10 most rural healthcare regions are compared to the city of Halifax, found that the rural cohort still had about three times the number of cases and 1.5 times the number of deaths as the capital of Nova Scotia. (Also, he notes, most of Halifax’s deaths occurred early in the pandemic, when its long-term care homes were severely affected.)

At the same time, vaccination rates in cities tend to be higher than those in rural areas. In torontoAll neighborhoods report that at least 67 percent of eligible residents have at least one dose of vaccine, while the overall rate for the city is 87.7 percent. And although the city suffered before in the pandemic, its rate of new cases is currently fine below the least vaccinated and more rural areas of the province.

As provinces lift public health measures, persuading the unvaccinated in those low-immunization areas to receive the doses is key to keeping the pandemic at bay, Wilson believes. Immunity will come from a vaccine or from the disease itself. The problem is, he says, getting vaccinated can mean a day’s trip to a place where vaccines are offered for many rural residents, compared to someone in a city simply walking around a corner.

“It should be as easy as possible in those pocket areas,” he says. That could include loading an industrial mini fridge full of doses into a van to take it anywhere there is a group of people in need of vaccinations. “Do what you have to do,” he says, “to make those pockets less obvious on a map.”

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