Mono Town Hall hears update on COVID-19 pandemic

May 13, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Peter Richardson

Mono Council presented its first Town Hall under a new format, on the evening of May 6, with keynote speakers from Wellington–Dufferin–Guelph Public Health (WDGPH).

Dr Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer of health and COVID-19 incident commander and director of health protection, Chris Beveridge shared presentations during the virtual meeting.

It began with a slide show by Beveridge, presenting a chart displaying the three waves of COVID-19 to date, showing how each has been a little harder and quicker than the last.

He then went on to show the rate of confirmed cases by age group, starting with March of 2020 and then March of 2021 until now. By comparison, the two charts were virtually polar opposites. In 2020, the predominance of cases hit the upper age groups primarily, with many in the over 80 age group. However, a look at 2021 shows that the predominance of cases is in the 20-39 age group followed closely by the 0-19 and 40-59 age brackets.

Beveridge attributed this to the COVID-19 variants of concern starting to spread in the new year and the priority vaccinations of the region’s older population.

The principal variant of concern right now is the UK variant 1.1.7., which is creating worry due to its increased ease of transmission and cause of more severe infections.

An increasing amount of ICU cases are younger patients with the variants. These variants are extremely infectious. Moreover, it is not just a GTA issue, but is province wide.

Beveridge went on to explain that the best defence is to continue with the precautions Public Health has always advised – hand washing, wearing masks, social distancing and adhering to the province’s stay-at-home order.

Virtual meetings such as Mono’s Town Hall, are also a way to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Beveridge also emphasized the region’s vaccination program, stressing the importance of being vaccinated.

He explained that the Health unit has the capacity to inject 70,000 doses a week, but currently the train of supply is well below that threshold. As the flow of vaccines increases, the capacity is there to administer them.

WDGPH is expecting to receive 12,870 doses of COVID-19 vaccines per week starting May 17 and that number will rise until June, so long as there’s no supply issues.

The vaccination sites where they’re being administered include the Alder Recreation Centre in Orangeville, the Mel Lloyd Centre in Shelburne, and the Grand Valley and District Community Center.

Currently, no vaccine is wasted. If a week’s supply is not used up, there is a waiting list of people who are called and vaccinated, so nothing goes to waste.

Beveridge went on to stress that the best vaccine to get is the one that’s available to you first. He noted that the risks associated with any of the vaccines are far outweighed by the benefits.

WDGPH’s goal is to vaccinate 75 per cent of the population and today, that goal has been reached by all age groups from 60 to 80 and over.

Future of the pandemic

Following the presentation, the first question directed to the speakers from Public Health was how they saw the pandemic playing out in the months ahead. Dr. Matthew Tenebaum answered, that with this third wave we have had a chance to see how the disease functions and where the vulnerabilities lie. He said he is hopeful that if the current lockdown is maintained long enough to see the transmission numbers decrease, this should be the last major wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Tenebaum said he’s hopeful that when the next major flare up of COVID-19 takes place, enough people will have been vaccinated to blunt the effect of the virus and not require extraordinary measures to handle it.

Variants of concern and efficacy of vaccines

At the Town Hall, an attendee expressed concern over the variants, to which the answer was reassuring. Despite them being more transmissible, the vaccines are proving to be very effective against them. Plus, they transmit the same way as the original virus, so if the public continues to be vigilant and follows Public Health guidelines, transmission is preventable.

Dr. Tenebaum was also asked about the efficacy of vaccines and briefly explained how vaccine trials are run before the vaccines efficacy can be stated.  Numbers for all the vaccines currently in use in Canada are proving to be very high.

The safety of the vaccines was brought up, specifically as it relates to the speed with which they were produced. Dr. Tenebaum explained that none of the safety steps were avoided, however the way in which they were done was adjusted.

Health Canada ran some of the tests simultaneously in order to speed up the process, because of the urgency. The result was a faster turnaround that included all the safety protocols, he noted.

Second dose delay

A question regarding the date for a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine was brought up by Marion Herron at the Town Hall, who noted that after her first shot, she did not receive a date when she’ll receive her second. Dr. Tenebaum answered that availability of the vaccine was one factor and a wait of up to four months is the norm presently.

Another reason for this is Public Health’s desire to get as many first doses into arms as possible before thinking about the second doses. This allows for better coverage of vaccines.

Dr. Tenebaum’s final answer was that Public Health has the contact information of everyone who receives the first dose and they will notify you when you are to go for your second shot.

Wakeup call for society

One final question during the Town Hall was whether this pandemic should be seen as a wakeup call for society. Dr. Tenebaum said yes it should. He explained that since they do not happen regularly, with the last one being the Spanish Flu in 1918, people do not think about them once they are over.

Dr. Tenebaum said that society as a whole needs to plan for the next one, no matter what the cause may be.

No one was prepared for the devastating effect this pandemic had on long term care homes and we need to put recommendations forward, provided by a commission that studies the impact that took place, so this can never happen again.

Dr. Tenebaum explained that we as a society need to plan for the next pandemic, so that we are ready for it and better able to combat the effects.

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