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“We are still very much in it:” Public health official urges vaccination

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Cathy Dobson

There’s strong demand for COVID-19 boosters in Sarnia-Lambton as health officials warn there’s likely to be a resurgence of the virus this fall.

Vaccination clinics are running four to five days a week at four locations across the county and they fill up fast, said Crystal Palleschi, health protection supervisor at Lambton Public Health.

“We’ve had an increase in bookings at the clinics the last couple of weeks.”

Between 450 and 500 people made appointments to receive a COVID-19 booster shot at the Point Edward Optimist Hall last Thursday, said Palleschi. Other clinics are regularly being held at the Lambton Public Health building on Exmouth Street, Shores Recreation Centre in Forest and the Wyoming Fairgrounds.

“A lot of pharmacies are also providing the COVID-19 shot,” Palleschi said. “The demand is steady.”

While the most difficult days may be behind us, the World Health Organization (WHO) has not declared the pandemic over.

The good news is that the WHO has indicated the end of the pandemic may be approaching.

“But we aren’t there yet,” said Palleschi.

Meanwhile vaccine and treatment are key to reducing the severity of illness.

The most recent numbers available indicate that about 150 local residents came down with COVID-19 the week of Oct. 11-18. PCR tests are confirming an average of 20 cases a day in Sarnia/Lambton.  

Palleschi pointed out that many more people are testing positive with rapid tests at home and never become part of public health statistics.

COVID-19 stats are updated every Wednesday on the Lambton Public Health website (https://lambtonpublichealth.ca/2019-novel-coronavirus). They show nine COVID patients are in hospital.

But none are in the ICU, a sign the BA.5 variant that is most prevalent in Sarnia/Lambton is not as likely to lead to severe illness as earlier variants did.

“Omicron is a milder illness but not milder for everyone,” Palleschi said. “It depends on personal risk and overall health.”

Recent outbreaks in local institutions are having less severe outcomes too, she said.

There are currently seven active COVID-19 outbreaks (meaning two or more cases) locally at nursing homes, retirement homes and one Community Living facility.

One COVID-19 death occurred this month, bringing to 153 the total number who have died in Sarnia/Lambton since the pandemic began in 2020.

Restrictions may be gone and public health policy no longer dictates masks are worn indoors but Palleschi wants the community to understand the virus is still circulating and precautions need to be taken, especially to stop health care workers  or vulnerable populations from contracting it.

“We are still very much in it,” said Palleschi. “It hasn’t gone away yet, so we have to keep talking about it.

“It might be just a bad cold for many people but severe illness is possible for some and isolating is still important if you test positive.”

She said those who test positive for COVID-19 should stay at home while they are ill and return to regular activities only once there’s no fever, symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours, or 48 hours if there’s nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Wearing a mask is recommended in public for 10 days after your symptoms start, or if you are around people in a high risk category, such as the elderly or chemo patients

“Or if you yourself are high risk and want an extra level of protections, wear a mask,” Palleschi said.

The best tool to stop COVID-19 from spreading this fall is to get vaccinated, she said. Anyone at higher risk should get a booster three months after their last shot.  Healthy people under age 65 can wait six month between shots. Those who have a bout with COVID-19 should wait three months after they recover.

Lambton Public Health vaccination clinics offer both the Moderna and Pfizer bivalent booster.  “They are slightly different but both are really affective,” said Palleschi. Residents can request which one they receive once they’re at the clinic.

Vaccination coverage in Sarnia/Lambton is considered very high for COVID-19, Palleschi added.  

“But those who are eligible for a booster should get one. Do whatever you can to protect those around you.”

To learn who is eligible for vaccination, visit https://lambtonpublichealth.ca/2019-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-vaccines/eligibility/.

SARNIA/LAMBTON VACCINATION RATES

Percentage of population aged six months and older with:

1st dose = 80% (105,762);

2nd dose = 77% (102,278);

3rd dose = 50% (65,551);

4th dose = 20% (25,850).

Source: Lambton Public Health

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