Across northeastern Ontario, COVID shots are entering the arms of children under five for the first time.
Public health officials are reporting strong reservations for the new childhood vaccine, which has only been available for a week.
But most older children are still unvaccinated, nine months after becoming eligible.
In Timiskaming, 39% of children aged 5 to 11 received two doses of vaccine, it is 38% in Algoma, 35% in Sudbury-Manitoulin, 33% in Nipissing and Parry Sound and 27% in the Porcupine region health district.
“So we definitely have work to do,” said Kendra Brunet, COVID response manager for the Porcupine Health Unit.
“But over the next few weeks, we’ve been setting up several child and youth-friendly clinics, as well as outdoor clinics so we can increase those back-to-school vaccination rates,” he said. she declared.
Nastassia McNair, Manager of COVID Planning for Public Health Sudbury & Districts, says that due to the low uptake of children, she will be happy if they achieve 30 or 40 per cent vaccination coverage for the newly six months to five year olds. eligible group.
She says vaccination clinics have been quiet over the summer, but are starting to get busier.
“It’s kind of the nature of our work in general,” McNair said.
“Even now, with our routine vaccinations, we’re starting to see that August is busier than July, so when individuals are kind of in that back-to-work, back-to-school mentality, we tend to see more appointments booked.”
Some of these bookings are for the second booster newly available for over 18s.
However, many have yet to receive their first booster since they opened in November 2021. About 57% of people over the age of 12 in Sudbury-Manitoulin have received three doses, 55% in Timiskaming, 60% in Algoma and 61% cent for North Bay-Parry Sound.
And now the decision to get vaccinated or not has become more complicated.
A new bivalent vaccine, specifically designed to protect against the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, is awaiting federal government approval.
Northeastern public health officials anticipate it will be available this fall and are incorporating it into their plans to expand vaccination clinics in the coming months.
However, anyone receiving a booster this summer is advised to wait five months before receiving this new and improved vaccine.
“Waiting for this vaccine to be approved is definitely a bit of a game changer, but we recommend that if you’re planning on getting your second booster at this point, that you can have that conversation with a primary care provider to figure out what’s the best time for you,” Brunet said.