'A monumentous day': Waterloo Region begins vaccinating children between five and 11
Clinics in Waterloo Region started vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11 on Friday morning.
"It is a monumentous day," the region's medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, said at the weekly COVID-19 briefing.
Officials said they have booked approximately 10,500 appointments for children in that age group so far, and have about 20,000 appointments still available between now and Dec. 12. There are nearly 50,000 children in the five to 11 age range, meaning around 20 per cent have already booked appointments.
"The vaccine will help protect children from COVID-19," Dr. Wang said. "It will keep them in school and doing the activities they enjoy."
The vaccine rollout for children under 12 includes an Every Dose Counts event scheduled for Dec. 11 and 12 at Pinebush in Cambridge, with a goal of 6,000 doses administered over those two days.
"Staff at Pinebush are working hard to bring a festive spirit to the clinic that weekend, while extending the hours and bringing in extra staff to provide a fun experience while getting vaccinated," said Vickie Murray, the region's vaccine lead.
The region wants to get as many children vaccinated as possible before the holiday season.
Clinics have been updated to make them more kid-friendly, and Murray said there is more time between vaccine appointments for children.
All vaccine appointments must now be booked online for regional clinics. The children's vaccine is also available at pharmacies and primary care offices in the region.
CASES CONTINUE TO INCREASE LOCALLY
Dr. Wang said the region is still seeing a small, but steady increase in case counts, especially among the unvaccinated population. Waterloo Region's weekly case rate is 36 per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the provincial average of 30 cases per 100,000.
There has also been an increase in workplace and school outbreaks as local case counts rise.
"Delta is highly transmissible, in particular during the colder months when we are indoors," Dr. Wang said. "It will spread easily. When individual cases and outbreaks are detected then controlled, we should not see this as a failure on the part of individuals, many of whom are doing what they can to prevent transmission of COVID-19."
Instead, Dr. Wang said this is an indication that the system of detecting and managing COVID-19 cases is working.
"All these actions are effectively pushing back against Delta and will help us successfully overcome the pandemic in the longer term."
She continued to encourage residents to follow public health measures, even if they are fully vaccinated.
CONCERNS OVER NEWLY IDENTIFIED VARIANT
Regional Chair Karen Redman said she has been in contact with Premier Doug Ford's office to address concerns over the new B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong.
On Friday, Ford called on the federal government to ban all flights and passengers from countries linked to that new variant.
Dr. Wang stressed vaccines remain the best way to strengthen community immunity against the threat of new variants, using residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
GUIDANCE FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Dr. Wang encouraged people to keep gatherings small over the holiday season.
"Gatherings or events outdoors are safer than indoors," she said. "The fewer people who gather, the lower the risk of COVID transmission."
She reminded residents that indoor gatherings are capped at 25 people and outdoor gatherings can have a maximum of 100 people.
Dr. Wang also encouraged residents to only travel if they are fully vaccinated, and to follow all public health measures in place at their destinations.
"This will be the highest risk period of the year," she said. "Please do what you can to reduce the risk for yourselves and your loved ones."
Redman reported one enforcement action at Friday's update.
She said Grand River Transit security issued a $240 fine to a person at an ION stop for failing to wear a face covering.