COVID-19: Vaccine hesitancy has dropped in Toronto, de Villa says

The city's top doctor said Toronto is on track to hit 90 per cent vaccination coverage


Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccination rates are going “up and up,” the city’s top doctor said today.

Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said approximately 336,000 more residents need to be vaccinated before the city hits the 90 per cent target, which provincial officials have said must be achieved province wide to reduce the impacts of the fast-transmitting Delta variant and bring the pandemic under control.

“We are continuing to see vaccination rates go up and up,” she said during a news conference at city hall on Wednesday. “I think we are closer to the end [of the pandemic] than we are to the beginning.”

De Villa added that there has been an 18 per cent jump in first doses given to Toronto residents since August 31 and 164,000 people who have had one shot already are currently eligible to receive second doses.

“In fact, first doses administered on September 2 and September 3 were the highest we’ve seen in Toronto since July,” she told reporters. “This may have been a result of people getting vaccinated in anticipation of a return to the office or the province’s announcement on proof-of-vaccination requirements to engage in different activities.”

As part of the province’s vaccination certificate system, Ontarians must prove they are fully vaccinated in order to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms, strip clubs and other businesses beginning on September 22.

Several major employers, including all levels of government, hospitals and banks, are mandating employees be fully immunized by the end of October. In some cases, those who choose to remain unvaccinated and do not have a medical or human rights exemption risk being fired.

De Villa also said Toronto Public Health data shows that COVID-19 case rates are seven times higher in unvaccinated people than those who are fully vaccinated. Additionally, she said that more than 90 per cent of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units are not fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 case counts in the city are highest among the 20 to 29 age group, but older residents that become infected are still more likely to be hospitalized, she added.

To date, 83.6 per cent of eligible Torontonians 12 and up have had one dose and 77.6 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Vaccine hesitancy decreasing in Toronto: survey data

De Villa also said recent survey data from polling firm Ipsos shows there has been a seven per cent decrease in vaccine hesitancy in Toronto since the city last surveyed residents on the subjects of vaccines in March.

She said one in six people – or 14 per cent – are vaccine hesitant, including six per cent who said they “definitely” will not get the shot and eight per cent who said they are unsure if they will get it in the future.

Additionally, two thirds of parents with kids under age 12 said they are ready to get their children vaccinated once Health Canada approves COVID-19 vaccines for that age group.

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer Kieran Moore told reporters on Tuesday that it could take two more months for the province to hit the 90 per cent target.

He added that there has a been a steady increase in first doses – primarily among people ages 18 to 59 – since Premier Doug Ford announced the vaccine certificate system, but the pace needs to pick up, referring to the current rate as “slow progress.”

To date, 84.5 per cent of eligible people in Ontario have had one dose and 78 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Fall months will not be relaxed, De Villa says

In addition to boosting vaccination rates, de Villa said residents have to reduce their number of contacts during the fourth wave.

“The fall months ahead of us will not be as relaxed as we might like,” she said, adding people should assess “what we do, when and how and where we do it.”

“The simplest yard stick for reducing contact is this: Ask yourself is this something you need to do or something you want to do,” she explained. “What simple limits or adjustments can you make to your plans to reduce the number of people you interact with. When you can’t physically distance yourself six feet from others, do you have your mask handy? Can what you’re doing be done outdoors? How can you make the space you’re in better ventilated?”

Last week, Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table said people would need to reduce their contacts to 70 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in order to avoid further lockdown measures.

In the past four days, Toronto Public Health reported 601 new COVID-19 cases – an average of 150 cases per day. There are 83 COVID-19 patients in city hospitals.

Ontario confirmed 554 more cases on Wednesday morning and 16 more deaths. Of today’s cases, 149 were in Toronto.

@nowtoronto

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