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'We need to do better': York Region calls for more school-age kids to get vaccinated

Approximately 61% of kids age 5 to 11 have had at least one dose; booster dose rate is under 50% for ages 18 to 39
March 2, 2022
Joseph Quigley

York Region Public Health said more needs to be done to vaccinate children ages five to 11 to keep in-person learning safe.

Medical officer of health Dr. Barry Pakes identified that as a gap in vaccination coverage in his weekly video update today, Feb. 28. Approximately 61.6 per cent of the age group has received at least a first dose in York Region as of Feb. 24, with 34 per cent at two doses.

“To protect in-person learning and these children for the rest of the school year and into next fall, we need to do better,” Pakes said.

He said the region plans to downscale mass vaccination clinics, with the Newmarket community centre clinic closed last week. Instead, public health is focusing on smaller, community-based clinics to meet demand. It also hosted a webinar for parents with questions on vaccination Feb. 22, now available online.

He said with restrictions lifting March 1, including proof-of-vaccination requirements, vaccination is even more critical. He said wastewater data indicates cases are increasing in the GTA, though hospitalizations continue to decline at a modest rate.

Pakes said businesses and organizations are still welcome to require vaccine passports if desired.

“Many York Region residents and businesses have expressed concern about the removal of the proof fo vaccination program, and this is understandable,” Pakes said. “We encourage all businesses and residents to be kind and respectful as we navigate this very significant change.”

He said booster dose coverage is another gap in vaccine protection, with only 47.5 per cent of York Region residents having booster doses. Although they were only recently made available for the 12 to 17 age group, every age band in York Region between 18 and 39 is below 50 per cent booster dose coverage.

“As almost all pandemic control measures are reduced, vaccinations are our best -- and may be our only -- protection against a resurgence and the need to reinstitute measures,” Pakes said.

He also spoke out about the conflict in Ukraine and the impact it has had across the world and in York Region.

“The focus of public health is the health and well-being of individuals and populations,” he said. “War is one of the most profound, tragic and preventable threats to health and well-being.”