Vaccines best defence against Delta resurgence as Waterloo Region reopens: Dr. Wang
Waterloo Region's medical officer of health says COVID-19 vaccines remain the best defence against resurgence of the Delta variant as the economy reopens.
The region joined Ontario with a move into Step 3 last Friday. Step 2 was delayed in the area due to wide community spread of the Delta variant earlier this summer.
"The risk of Delta will increase as we reopen our economy and society," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said at the region's COVID-19 update on Friday. "Therefore, we need to protect ourselves. Residents should not delay getting their first or second doses."
She encouraged people to continue following all public health measures, avoid crowded indoor spaces, gather outdoors whenever possible and wear a mask if physical distancing isn't possible.
"The Delta variant continues to be the predominant strain in Waterloo Region and is estimated to have accounted for 97 per cent of cases in the previous two weeks," Dr. Wang said.
Trends in the community have improved in recent weeks. The weekly incidence rate is now down to 25 cases per 100,000 people, according to Dr. Wang.
Dr. Wang added the majority of new cases continue to be in people who aren't vaccinated, or anyone who has only received one dose.
"Fully vaccinated people are the most protected possible against infection and, in particular, severe illness that can lead to hospitalization or even death," she said.
She said there is a possibility of breakthrough cases in people who are fully vaccinated, but they are less likely to have severe symptoms or to spread the disease to others.
"The more there's spread of the virus, the more everyone is at increased risk, because there's more exposure to the virus," Dr. Wang said. "But, those who are vaccinated, especially those that are fully vaccinated, are the most protected."
The region continues to have some of the highest first-dose coverage in Ontario, but Dr. Wang reminded residents that it's too soon to relax restrictions completely.
"We may feel done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with us," she said.
CONTINUED PUSH FOR ACCELERATED SECOND DOSES
Regional officials continue to encourage people get their second vaccine dose as soon as they are eligible to do so. The interval between mRNA vaccines is 28 days, and people can get a second shot eight weeks after receiving AstraZeneca.
All regional clinics are offering walk-ins for first and second doses, and all other appointments will be honoured.
"I encourage every resident who has an appointment in August, September or October to book an earlier appointment or pop into one of the clinics," said Dept. Chief Shirley Hilton, who is leading the region's vaccine rollout.
The region launched a new mobile vaccine bus this week, which is aimed at making doses more accessible to people who may not be able to get to a clinic, pharmacy or primary care facility.
Hilton said the vaccine task force is beginning to look at ramping down some of its mass vaccine clinics as more and more residents receive both first and second doses. She said they will continue to offer mobile and other vaccine options into the future.
'NOT THE TIME TO BE PICKY'
Hilton said supply is no longer an issue in the region. However, she did address hesitancy over the Moderna vaccine in Friday's update. Thousands of doses at local pharmacies might expire soon. After thawed, Moderna doses have a shelf-life of 30 days.
The region's supply is stored in freezers and not at-risk. Hilton said pharmacies are sending refrigerated doses to regional clinics ahead of their expiration date so they don't get wasted.
"The best vaccine is the one that's being offered to you," Hilton said. "Now is not the time to be picky about which vaccine you get. It's about being protected."
Officials reported one enforcement action at this week's COVID-19 update. Regional bylaw officers issued one ticket to a business for failing to comply with the face covering bylaw. That ticket was worth $240.
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