Get vaccinated, regional leaders urge to ensure province on track for next step of reopening
As the Aug. 6 target approaches, the province is still short of the second dose vaccination target to remove the last public health restrictions
Mayors across the GTHA have joined the campaign calling on more citizens to get their COVID-19 vaccines to ensure the province will lift public health restrictions by Aug. 6.
Leaders from the GTHA's 11 largest municipalities, including Vaughan and Markham, put out a joint statement July 26 encouraging the public to get vaccinated so the provincial vaccination targets can be met to proceed to the next stage of reopening.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said though York’s vaccination progress has been excellent, he wants to ensure the vaccination rate is as high as possible.
“I’m hopeful and optimistic we won’t see a significant fourth wave with this high level of vaccination, but we know with other jurisdictions around the world, it’s not out of the question,” Taylor said.
The province entered step three of its reopening plan July 16 for approximately 21 days. The province has said it will not lift more restrictions until at least 80 per cent of the population aged 12 and over has received one dose of the vaccine, and 75 per cent has received two doses.
In addition, no public health unit can have less than 70 per cent of its population fully vaccinated. In York Region, 61.1 per cent of the total number of residents have both doses as of July 25.
As of today, July 27, 80.48 per cent of eligible Ontario residents have received their first dose, while 67.29 per cent have received two doses. In York Region as of July 25, 80.7 per cent have first doses and 69.8 per cent second doses.
“Those percentages are crucial to making sure the GTHA and all of Ontario can move beyond step three,” regional mayors and chairs said in a statement. “(We) strongly encourage all residents to get their first and second shots and to encourage everyone they know -- their family, their friends, their neighbours -- to get vaccinated now.”
The mayors and chairs of GTHA's 11 largest municipalities meet regularly, including Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Hamilton, Markham, Vaughan, Peel, York, Durham and Halton. Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti, Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and York Region Chair Wayne Emmerson are among the meeting members, alongside the likes of Toronto Mayor John Tory and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie.
Taylor said he is optimistic the province will reach its targets, but added he hopes there is some wiggle room.
“If we get to 21 days and we’re a hair away from those numbers, I would like to think they would move to reduce restrictions again,” Taylor said. “We need to make sure that unless the risk is high, that we are trying to move our economy and our society and our communities back to some sense of normalcy.”
Vaccination rates in York Region have slowed, with the number of first doses going up only a couple of percentage points in recent weeks. Taylor said the region's public health unit has improved access with walk-ins and pop-up clinics and it needs to think outside the box to get more vaccinations.
He said about 10 per cent of people will not get vaccinated under any circumstances, but the region can try to get as close to 90 per cent of people vaccinated as possible by the fall.
Taylor said residents should get a vaccine to help prevent an upsurge of cases and more restrictions coming back into force.
“The science is clear. The vaccines are safe,” Taylor said. “Some businesses will go out of business if we have to go backward in the fall … The best way you can support small businesses is to get vaccinated.”