As Ontario celebrates a milestone of vaccinating over 8 million people, the province’s chief medical officer of health says they’re doing their best to convince the remaining population of about 2 million to get immunized or risk getting sick.
Speaking on Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore says incentives, such as proof of vaccination in the form of a passport, will not be offered to increase vaccine uptake, adding that there is still time for the province to make progress.
“We need to build a wall of immunity around every community in Ontario,” Moore says, alluding to a goal of vaccinating roughly 90 per cent of the population with hopes of limiting the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
“There are only six weeks to go before September when school is set to resume and the cooler weather will begin driving us indoors,” Moore added.
“We will be in close spaces with closer faces in crowded spaces so our risk will be going up very shortly.”
Moore says that by following data and COVID-19 modelling, evidence from the U.S. shows that infection and transmission of the Delta variant will fluctuate in approximately 2 million Ontarians that remain unvaccinated.
The top doctor pointed to data from June that shows the risk of contracting COVID-19 was around 5 times higher in an unvaccinated individual than someone fully immunized, and 3.4 times higher compared to people with one-dose protection.
The risk of hospitalization was three times more likely for someone without a vaccine.
Number of people vaccinated (all ages)
This comes as health officials in the U.S. say the Delta variant is surging, accounting for an estimated 83 per cent of U.S. COVID-19 cases.
That’s a dramatic increase from the week of July 3, when the variant accounted for about 50 per cent of genetically sequenced cases.
“The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants is to prevent the spread of disease, and vaccination is the most powerful tool we have,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a U.S. Senate hearing Tuesday.
According to the CDC, Britain recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19-related deaths in four months as a result of the Delta variant.
Government figures showed 96 new virus-related deaths, the highest since March 24. The UK also recorded 46,558 confirmed cases but are said to be higher because of a weekend reporting lag.
The increase in deaths comes a day after the British government ended lockdown restrictions in England, including on social distancing and mask-wearing. Critics warn it will lead to further spread of the coronavirus and potential deaths in the coming weeks.
The Delta variant was first detected in India but now has been identified around the world.
In Ontario’s case, Moore says vaccination numbers are trending in the right direction. As of Tuesday, 79 per cent of those aged 12-and-up have one dose of a vaccine, while 62 per cent of that group have both doses.
The province says just over 80 per cent of adults 18-and-up have received at least one dose, with 64 per cent fully vaccinated.
The province entered Step 3 of its reopening plan last week.