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Thursday, October 6, 2022
Vaccines could be diverted from Niagara again, Hirji says

Some of Niagara's vaccine supply could be diverted to other regions considered to be COVID hotspots, warns Niagara’s chief medical officer Dr. Mustafa Hirji.

Modelling predicts that shifting vaccine distribution to focus more on hotspots could prevent one case of COVID-19 for every 34 shots administered, as well as prevent deaths and hospitalizations, Hirji told a news conference Monday.

“So I’m expecting in the next few weeks we may see a shift of vaccines, away from places like Niagara, and more strongly to places like Toronto and Peel where they have the hotspots.”

He said he expects Niagara’s vaccine pace will slow down if the vaccines are redirected, however he isn’t certain how much vaccine might be affected.

“I would imagine there will still be some vaccine coming to us. It just might be a smaller amount so that might mean we're running smaller clinics, as opposed to necessarily completely shuttering our clinics, but that is me speculating,” Hirji said.

As of Monday, about 26 per cent of Niagara residents had been vaccinated, he said.

Niagara, along with the rest of Ontario, has seen COVID-19 case numbers spike drastically in the last two weeks.

He said it’s past the point where we can really start to see cases come down significantly, unless something “additional” is done.

“Without stronger system level measures, immediate support for essential workers — which hasn't been done — and support for high-risk communities, high cases will persist through the summer,” Hirji said, based on data provided by the Ontario Science Table.

“Obviously, the reason we care about cases, is because a fraction of cases will go on to having severe illness and be hospitalized. A fraction of those will be very severely ill and will need ICU care.”

On Monday he said 700 patients were in ICU across the province, and that predictions show ICU admissions could reach 1,500 by the beginning of May before they start to come down.

“That's significant. The province of previous specified 150 people in ICU from COVID-19 was their danger threshold. So we're now looking at 1,500, so about 10 times above that.”

Like other countries that opened up when cases were still high, such as the U.K., he said Ontario could experience a similar trend.

“Hopefully, we'll learn that lesson and extend our stay-at-home order past just the six weeks, because I think it's probably going to need to be longer than that to bring cases to a low enough point, to get to a point where vaccines are high enough that we'll be able to safely reopen.”

He suggested the stay-at-home order would likely need to be extended until late June to be effective.

There is a potential we won’t need to lockdown for months, but it depends on people’s decisions, he said.

“To get cases under control the key thing is that we need this lockdown to actually stop people from socially interacting with others,” Hirji said.

“Unfortunately, when you look at our mobility data, thus far, we haven't really seen that kind of reaction with this latest lockdown.”

One saving grace is with nicer weather, people can get outside, but they need to do so with members of their households only, he added.