COVID-19 Vaccination UpdateAugust 6, 2021
By OPH Community Operations Team
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has embarked on its largest vaccination campaign to date. Vaccination rates in Ottawa have increased steadily for many months and now more than 70% of eligible Ottawa residents are fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates are now beginning to slow down, and with new variants of concern such as Delta, efforts to increase vaccine uptake need to be maintained to minimize a resurgence in cases. Below, you will find a vaccine update broken down in a question-and-answer format.
What is Ottawa’s current vaccination rate?
As of August 2nd, 2021, 767 352 (83%) of eligible individuals who are 12 and older in Ottawa have received their first dose. 661 965 (72%) of eligible individual who are 12 and older in Ottawa are fully vaccinated. For more information about vaccine coverage across Ottawa, please visit COVID-19 Vaccination Dashboard – Ottawa Public Health.
What are the inequities affecting vaccine uptake, and the reasons behind these inequities?
The pandemic has magnified longstanding health inequities, including vaccine access and uptake in our communities. Rates of vaccination in communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic are lower than in communities who were less impacted by the pandemic and the social determinants of health (SDOH) can shed some light on the reasons for these inequities.
The SDOH are the social and economic factors that contribute to our health and how we live our day-to-day lives. Determinants such as systemic racism, income, social status, employment, working conditions, education, literacy, and access to health services have a direct impact on vaccine access and uptake. These determinants of health have an impact on certain persistent vaccination barriers faced by communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 right here in Ottawa. Below are some of the barriers:
- Structural Barriers: not everyone has fair access to social structures and services such as: transportation to clinics or pharmacies, childcare, a health card, technology (for accessing information or booking), information or services in their language (they may not be fluent in English or French).
- Systemic Barriers: not everyone has the same experience of the systems and institutions involved in vaccination. For example: due to historical and ongoing forms of oppression, certain communities may not trust health institutions or the government; others may put more trust in their religious beliefs; and others may be following trusted figures in their lives who do not plan on getting vaccinated.
- Time: not everyone can take time off from work or from other obligations to wait in line with the booking system or at a drop-in clinic. People may also lack flexible schedules, which makes it difficult to attend their appointment or to rebook appointments to an earlier date.
- Information: access to evidence-based information presented in an approachable way is key to making informed decisions, and this access is not always fair. For example: some people may not have had enough time to digest rapidly changing information; others expressed that they could not find up-to-date, plain-language information about long-term vaccine effects, mRNA vaccines, vaccination for children, the importance of second doses, or the safety and efficacy of mixing vaccines. People may also be hearing misinformation through social media channels and word of mouth. Without the ability to critically assess this information against the evidence-based information, it can influence someone’s decision regarding vaccination.
How does Ottawa Public Health plan to address these barriers?
Many community outreach initiatives have taken place to address the above-mentioned barriers within priority neighborhoods since vaccines have been made available to the public such as:
- multi-lingual information sessions and presentations on the vaccine facilitated by medical professionals and community leaders,
- door to door initiatives within priority neighborhoods led by community partners to inform and address hesitancy and point to upcoming clinics in priority neighborhoods,
- pop up clinics within priority neighborhoods,
- increase access to transportation to vaccination clinics, when required
- increase presence within the community by OPH’s community engagement team.
These initiatives helped increase vaccination rates within priority neighborhoods, but now overall attendance at community and pop-up clinics have slowed. A new goal to fully vaccinate 90% of eligible residents within the city has been established to limit the impact of a potential fourth wave. Mobile clinics and community hub models have been developed to make it easier for people to get vaccinated where they live, work, and play and to further reduce persistent vaccination barriers.
Mobile clinics allow workplaces, places of worship, and other community groups who are interested in a temporary vaccine clinic within their location to better meet the needs of unvaccinated employees or members. The community hub model is comprised of a small group of nurses stationed within a central and easily accessible location within priority neighborhoods. These hubs will be open seven days a week (during the afternoon and evening) for a period of at least 4 weeks. Residents can visit the hub as frequently as they like to learn more about the vaccine, to ask questions, and to receive a vaccine when they are ready. Language supports and community resources will be available as needed within these hubs that are being developed in collaboration with community partners.
What do these inequities mean in a case of a possible resurgence of the virus?
The seriousness of the pandemic’s fourth wave will depend largely on vaccination coverage. The fourth wave will impact unvaccinated individuals the most and this reality is unfolding across Europe and the United States as the Delta variant is rapidly increasing case counts and hospitalizations of unvaccinated individuals. Our goal in Ottawa is to vaccinate 90% of eligible residents. We aim to do this by increasing vaccine access to the communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, who without fair access to vaccine information and opportunities will further be impacted by the possible resurgence.
What is the plan for school reopening?
The Ministry of Education released reopening plans for the 2021-2022 school year this week. The content is being reviewed to better learn how OPH will continue to support schools during this upcoming year. Please continue to visit the OPH Supporting Schools webpage for the latest news.
We are thankful for your ongoing support throughout the pandemic, but we continue to count on you. If you have already been vaccinated that’s great! Share the good news with your circle, and support others around you in getting their vaccine. We have a handout on how to talk about vaccines with others that may be helpful to you. If you have concerns about the vaccines and are unsure if this is the right choice for you, we encourage you to consult OPH’s frequently asked questions webpage or to reach out to a public health nurse at 613-580-6744.
To make vaccine access easier for your community, please request a mobile clinic within your community setting. Complete the Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Community Requests form (call 613-691-5505 for assistance filling out the form). Ottawa Public Health will review your request and work with you to deploy a mobile vaccination team to support your community where they live, work and play. Services can be provided in a variety of languages.