It has been some time since the last OSMH update to the community. We have had an incredibly challenging 20 months of this pandemic with significant progress in areas and a few setbacks along the way. As we enter into the holiday season with increasing case counts, it is even more important that we stay connected, as one community, to successfully navigate this next phase of the pandemic.
COVID-19 continues to move through the province with a much higher incidence within the unvaccinated. We have seen a transition of “hot spots” from Greater Toronto Area to Central and Northern Ontario. Areas like Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie have seen sharp increases in cases. The region of Simcoe Muskoka is now recognized as having one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the province.
This recent rise in cases may raise more questions in the overall strategy. It feels like as soon as we see the end of this pandemic marathon, someone moves the finish line. I would like to address some recent positive developments that will move us closer to the end of this pandemic as well as some emerging concerns to be aware of.
Vaccines continue to be shown to work; without them our current situation could be much, much worse. Countries across the world with lower vaccine rates are now facing massive lockdowns with case counts rising to the tens of thousands. Although hospital admissions in Ontario are creeping up, we have not seen an overwhelming jump in inpatient or intensive care unit COVID activity. It is the vaccination of almost 90% of the Ontario population 12 and older keeping Ontario afloat, businesses open and kids in school.
Please remember that COVID-19 vaccines alone are not enough and we need to continue with all recommended public health measures. We can’t stop now. In fact, we need to push even harder into the winter months as we know the influenza season will soon be on the rise too and other respiratory viruses are already increasing.
The COVID-19 vaccination strategy has been further enhanced with two recent developments. The availability of vaccines for children aged 5-11 will help address the increasing transmission of COVID-19 transmission in schools, sporting events and within families. Vaccination in children is certainly not new and other jurisdictions like the United States have been vaccinating kids against COVID-19 for weeks based on the results of comprehensive research studies. There will be questions and it is very important that we look to trusted sources for answers. I have included a few reputable links for those looking for more information.
A second noteworthy development is the availability of third doses or “booster” shots of the COVID-19 vaccine. Like many vaccines, efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine wanes over time. More specifically, two doses of vaccine continues to work well in the general population at preventing serious outcomes like hospitalization and the need for intensive care; however, the ability of the vaccine to prevent less severe infection over time may fade.
I know a number of people have raised a larger, societal concern of moving forward with third doses in Ontario when many countries around the world continue to have poor access to first and second doses. These are important decisions for governments and policy makers to consider in the spirit of a more equitable society. For now, the third dose vaccines are available, in stock and ready to be administered to those who qualify in Ontario. I am very grateful that we have this opportunity for an added layer of protection for our community and our healthcare providers and we should not let it go to waste.
For more information on how to book a vaccine, please click “HERE“. Vaccines are also available at many of our community pharmacies.
Some may be thinking the ongoing push for vaccines and public health measures is over the top. It does seem to be relentless and never ending. The simple answer: it is all necessary.
We are seeing unprecedented health needs in our community. The pandemic has taken a huge toll on the health and wellbeing of the people we serve with worsening chronic health conditions including mental health as well as deferred surgical procedures. OSMH has been working with 35 additional beds open for the past year and we anticipate more are required. We are continuously recruiting new staff and re-purposing our limited space to best meet the community needs. Our clinical teams do an incredible job prioritizing care needs as best they can to get to the urgent cases first, but unfortunately it does mean some things will take longer than we would like.
So as we head into winter, I welcome the snow and holiday cheer with some trepidation. We are all pretty tired of this pandemic and it is not over yet. I think back to last year where we were anxiously awaiting the first availability of vaccines. We have come a long way in the past year and I have confidence we can do it again if we all work together as one community.
Carmine Stumpo, President & CEO
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital