Despite continuing spread of COVID-19 and deaths still being reported, few people in Windsor-Essex are opting to get booster shots.
According to the Windsor Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), only 47.6 per cent of Windsor-Essex residents have received their third dose, as of Jan. 4. Fourth dose uptake is lower, with only 19.9 per cent of residents receiving the jab.
Both totals are roughly three percentage points lower than the provincial average.
Windsor-Essex’s acting medical officer of health calls it “concerning.”
“I recognize that we are now in the third year of the pandemic, but our best way to manage the pandemic and to manage COVID-19 is to minimize the burden of disease in the community,” said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai. “Getting vaccinated is a key component to trying to prevent or reduce the burden of illness on the community overall.”
dr Shanker Nesathurai is the acting medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex. He says low COVID-19 booster vaccine uptake is ‘concerning,’ especially with a highly contagious subvariant of the virus emerging in the US (TJ Dhir/CBC)
Nesathurai’s advice comes as a new, more infectious subvariant called XBB.1.5 is driving up case counts in the US Known as the “Kraken” variant, the subvariant is causing an estimated 28 percent of cases south of the border, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US agency also says that Monroe County in Michigan is seeing high levels of COVID-19.
dr Wassim Saad, chief of staff at Windsor Regional Hospital (WRH), said during a hospital board meeting Thursday that he believes the “highly infectious and highly transmissible” subvariant of Omicron is already in Windsor.
“We are going to be one of the first areas in Canada to see a variant like this enter our community,” he said, citing Windsor being a border community.
Nesathurai said disease activity is increasing in Windsor-Essex in January so far compared to all of December. COVID-19 indicators such as the number of cases, the percentage of positive cases, and the number of hospitalizations are increasing, and there has been six deaths. Nesathurai said disease activity tends to increase as the winter rolls on.
WECHU offering shots throughout the county
WECHU is aiming to drive up vaccination rates at pop-up clinics across the county. A clinic in Leamington saw people come out to receive their vaccinations.
“We’re excited to welcome the community in for, generally, their booster vaccines,” said Laura Strathdee, director of clinical practice for the Windsor Essex Community Health Center (weCHC) in Leamington. “We try to offer two weekend clinics a month to make vaccines accessible for those that work Monday to Friday or need weekend access.”
Sunday’s pop-up clinic also saw some migrant workers arrive on a bus at 11 am Strathdee said she tries to bring buses full of migrant workers to receive their vaccinations every Sunday.
Laura Strathdee is the director of clinical practice for the Windsor Essex Community Health Center in Leamington. She helps bring in buses of migrant workers to receive their COVID-19 vaccines. (TJ Dhir/CBC)
“We have a great relationship with the farms to get them vaccinated,” she said. “We bring in language support, nursing staff and providers that speak their language so that we can do a great job answering all their questions. Doses in other countries don’t always match here so it’s a bit more labour-intensive to find what they got and get them on track here.”
Some workers are happy to receive the vaccines and they recognize the importance of getting it.
“It’s very important to get the vaccine because the situation is getting worse in some areas and countries,” said Benjae Ondoy, a migrant worker from the Philippines.
Bryan Tiamsim, Benjae Ondoy and Dave Amada, left to right, are migrant workers from the Philippines. They say it is important to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because cases are rising in certain parts of the world, including the Philippines. (TJ Dhir/CBC)
Ondoy and his friends Bryan Tiamsim and Dave Amada, who are also from the Philippines, say the situation is getting worse in their homeland, saying a vaccination card is required to go to some public places.