Anyone eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine can now enter as booster intake slows

Ottawa Public Health now says anyone eligible for a first, second or third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can simply show up as the city attempts to increase vaccine use during this Omicron-fueled wave.

In the early days of third-dose eligibility opening in Ontario, public health officials struggled with growing pains as it rapidly increased capacity for tens of thousands of new appointments. .

Last week, Ottawa administered an average of 12,100 reminders a day and that figure dropped to just over 9,000 for the first two days of this week.

Wednesday was the first day of walk-in appointments in Ottawa and public health reports that it administered 943 doses to those who did not have an appointment.

Dr. Kumanan Wilson, an internal medicine specialist at The Ottawa Hospital and CEO of vaccine tracking company CANImmunize, says it’s not unusual for adult vaccination campaigns to run out of steam towards the end of the full completion schedule.

“There’s a bit of fatigue emerging in the population,” Wilson said, adding that officials aren’t yet sure if that’s due to access issues or a potential hesitancy to get a third dose.

Some people might also be discouraged by a shifting message about the vaccine’s effectiveness in protecting people from contracting COVID, Wilson said, while it is proven to prevent serious illness.

WATCH: Pandemic fatigue may be a factor in delays in vaccine appointment bookings:

Pandemic fatigue could be contributing to a delay in vaccine appointment bookings, researcher says

Dr. Kumanan Wilson, a researcher at The Ottawa Hospital, says fatigue could lead to a slowdown in vaccination in the general population as the pandemic enters its third year. 0:56

Vaccine to prevent serious illness

To some extent, he adds, vaccines have been victims of their own success – as they have been surprisingly effective at preventing infection against earlier variants and have given some hope that the virus could be wiped out with sufficient vaccination. large.

“That’s really not the point of these vaccines now. It will provide you with some protection against infection, it will lower your viral load, which is fine. But the real goal is to protect you against serious disease” , Wilson said.

Someone walks to the COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Nepean Sportsplex on January 12, the first day Ottawa Public Health clinics began accepting walk-in appointments for anyone eligible for a first, second or third dose. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Wilson said subsequent doses are still important to protect the healthcare system, reduce the need for lockdown-type measures and ultimately help society get back to normal.

“We want to be vaccinated, so you can be exposed, have minimal symptoms or be asymptomatic, know more about the virus, probably be better when the next variant comes along,” he said.

“Hopefully our collective immune systems will start to know what this virus is and we can live with it.”

Wilson said the province may need to change the definition of fully vaccinated to include the third dose, but early public health campaigns need to make immunization as easy as possible.

To date, 52% of Ottawa residents 18 years and older have received three doses of a vaccine.

Getting more young children a 1st dose

Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, addressed some of the concerns people had about third doses when announcing the expansion of walk-in availability on Wednesday.

WATCH: Get your booster even if you’ve had COVID-19, Etches says:

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Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, says all eligible residents should receive a third dose of the vaccine – even if they have just recovered from a COVID-19 infection – because of the increased protection that it offers against serious illnesses. 1:08

“Pfizer and Moderna are mRNA vaccines that work the same way, and it’s safe and effective to use a different brand for your booster,” Etches said.

She also said people who have already tested positive or suspect they may have recently had COVID-19 should always receive a third dose after they recover and complete their period of isolation.

“There is no current evidence to suggest that COVID-19 provides as much or better protection than a vaccine.”

Etches said the walk-in option is also intended to help vaccinate more children aged 5 to 11 before returning to class on Monday.

Vaccination in these children has slowed in 2022. Since January 2, the percentage of this cohort with their first dose has only increased from 61 to 64%.

“I would like it to be over 70% and above,” Etches said.

She said she would support the COVID-19 vaccine eventually being included as a mandatory vaccination in Ontario’s Immunization of School Students Act, which helps public health officials track student immunizations.

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