Dr. Natalie Bocking is the new medical officer of health for the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit, as of April 6.

Haliburton ‘not forgotten’ in vaccine roll-out: MOH

By Sue Tiffin

After the announcement that second dose appointments could be accelerated beginning last week, many Haliburton County residents logged in to or phoned the provincial booking system but were disappointed to see that appointments weren’t available in the area.

“Certainly, Haliburton has not been forgotten, and we are in active discussions to look at additional strategies of how we might support county residents in accessing vaccine,” said Bocking.

Bocking said additional clinics would be posted as they are available.

“We are actively ensuring that we’re able to both allocate vaccine across all three geographic areas in an equitable way, and ensure that coverage, so in terms of the proportion of the population that has received one dose or two doses, is about even across the way,” said Bocking. “So if we start to see that there’s gaps in specific areas, we respond to that to look at what other avenues that we need to make available. I’m excited to hear that there are individuals in Haliburton that are keen and really looking to find out where they can get that vaccine opportunity, and we will continue to make sure that we can meet those needs as best as we can.”

While there haven’t been appointments available in Haliburton County, residents have been receiving their vaccine in other areas of the province – including Orillia, Bracebridge and Gravenhurst – just as some non-residents of HKPR have visited this area to receive their vaccine here.

Even in Phase 1, Bocking said travel isn’t encouraged.

“That being said, vaccination is important and we’re encouraging people really to receive their first or second dose at their earliest opportunity,” said Bocking.

“I can understand why people would be going to those appointments, and at this point in time, I think I would say that I understand why they go, and would support that.”

For more information about vaccine distribution, a ‘vaccines given’ dashboard is available at http://www.hkpr.on.ca and is updated on Mondays.

Not enough vaccine supply for more clinic appointments, yet
“We continue to hear some concerns and frustrations related to challenges in booking appointments, specifically at the mass immunization clinics,” said Bocking. “There does continue to be a mismatch in terms of the number of appointments we have available, which is based on our supply of vaccine, and the acceleration of eligibility for second dose booking that has been announced through the province and implemented through the provincial booking system.”

Bocking said the province’s eligibility announcements mean those who are eligible can book based on appointments in jurisdiction.

“We happen to be one of the jurisdictions that is still working to expand our first-dose coverage, as we hadn’t received as much vaccine as early as other health units had,” she said. “That’s largely related to the fact that we’ve had lower case activity which is ultimately quite a positive thing.”

Bocking said she appreciates that the situation is frustrating, and said the health unit is doing everything possible to post more appointments with incoming vaccine supply.

“I guess I would urge and hope for some patience as we continue to move through this together,” she said.
Bocking said the health unit is working to ensure that those who show up for their second appointment can receive the same dose of vaccine they received in their first appointment if they wish to do so.

Vaccinated population update
As of June 7, 90,657 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the region, and 112,750 HKPR residents have received their first dose of vaccine. In total, 65.7 per cent of the population that is 12 and over has received their first dose, 68.9 per cent of those 18 and older have received a first dose, 82 per cent of the population that is 60 and over has received their first dose of vaccine. In terms of second dose, 8.3 per cent of those 12 and older and 20.9 per cent of those 80 and older have received two doses.

“This really, in some short numbers reflects a huge amount of work that has occurred across our jurisdiction, not just by health unit staff, in addition to our partners and primary care, municipalities, hospitals, EMS, Rotary club, other community organizations, it has really been a tremendous group effort and I do want to acknowledge as well the ongoing commitment and hard work of all of the health unit staff as they, day in and day out, are working to get vaccine out and into arms as quickly and as efficiently as possible,” said Bocking.

Epidemiological update
At press time, since the start of the pandemic, 2,119 cases of COVID-19 in total have been confirmed in the entire HKPR district, 121 of those in Haliburton County. Currently there are 34 active cases confirmed in the region, with two of those being in Haliburton County. The crude rate over the past seven days, as of June 11, was 16.4 cases per 100,000 residents – during the conference, Bocking said the lower rate is “reassuring and positive news.” Five individuals are in hospital and four are in the ICU, and two outbreaks – one at the Port Hope LCBO and one at Lindsay’s Central East Correctional Centre where 154 inmates and 10 staff have tested positive – are ongoing.

Of total cases, 70.9 per cent of cases have been identified as the Alpha variant, also known as the B1117 variant or the variant identified in the U.K. In Haliburton County, 36 cases have been confirmed as variants of concern since April 1.

Approximately 50 per cent of cases over the past two weeks have been in the 20 to 29 year old and 30 to 39 year old age groups, Bocking said. In the past 14 days, 41 per cent of cases had been linked to outbreaks and 15 per cent of cases had no known source of transmission. Previously, up to 40 per cent of cases had no known source of transmission, signalling wider spread in the community.

Haliburton Rotary thanks vaccine clinic volunteers
On June 11, the Rotary Club of Haliburton thanked all volunteers who had helped run a mass vaccination clinic in Haliburton at the Dysart arena from April to June. Approximately 4,500 people were vaccinated at the clinic. The last clinic in Haliburton was held on June 9.

Haliburton County now has one mass vaccine clinic, at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden.
“We do continue to reassess the need and other opportunities for the potential of additional shorter term clinic opportunities in Haliburton County,” said Bocking at the June 9 meeting.