After weeks of reaching unpleasant milestones in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region has just passed a significant milestone that is actually cause for celebration.
As of Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021, more than 50,000 residents in KFL&A have received their third dose of COVID-19 vaccine, something KFL&A Public Health is urging eligible residents to do as soon as possible (along with reducing close contacts) in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus locally, particularly the involving the Omicron variant.
According to the local Health Unit, 51,179 KFL&A residents have now received their third shot, or booster shot, as it is often referred to. A total of 52,968 third doses have been administered in the region, 25,832 of which were administered in the last seven days.
KFL&A Public Health is not able to divulge the breakdown of the age groups that have received those doses; a research associate with Public Health will be calculating that age breakdown, but it will take some time before that information is available, the local Health Unit said. However, given that those aged 50 and over were eligible for the third dose of COVID-19 vaccine before all other age groups (eligibility for third doses only opened up to those 18 years of age and over yesterday, on Monday, Dec. 20, 2021), it is likely that a majority of those who have received third doses at this time are 50 years old or older, KFL&A Public Health said in an email.
“It is estimated that, with the current number of clinics and appointments, we should give 50,000 more vaccinations by January 2, 2022,” said Suzette Taggart, Manager of Communications with KFL&A Public Health.
The local Health Unit admitted there have been issues as the clinics for receiving third doses of COVID-19 vaccine have rolled out, but those have been similar to the problems encountered with the roll out of the initial vaccination program. Some individuals have been able to get earlier appointments, but were then unable to cancel their later appointments, Taggart relayed. But thus far, she said, Public Health and its healthcare partners in the region have been able to address that issue swiftly.
“When this happens, we have been successful in putting a last minute call out on social media for individuals to come get vaccinated ASAP,” Public Health said in an email, noting that some residents have called or emailed to cancel their appointments, and those appointments have been able to be rescheduled.
KFL&A Public Health said they are working with many community partners across the region to make as many vaccination clinics available as possible, and pointed out that there are a number of immunization options, including through mass clinics (like the one recently held at St. Lawrence College), primary care physicians and clinics, pharmacies, and other pop-up clinics. This range of options is made possible through the help of volunteers, with over 100 volunteers per day assisting with the St. Lawrence College drive-through clinics over the past weekend.
According to the Kingston Response Group, volunteers are currently needed to assist with KFL&A Public Health Clinics. For more information on how to volunteer, visit the United Way of KFL&A website here, or the KFL&A Public Health website here.
At the same time as area residents are clamouring to book appointments for the third doses, testing for COVID-19 remains very high in the region. A record 2,884 tests were processed on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, according to data from Public Health, and although the number of tests processed daily since then has declined, the Assessment Centres are still seeing heavy traffic and nearly-full appointment rosters daily. And while PCR and Rapid Antigen tests have become more prevalently used locally, the Greater Kingston Chamber of Commerce’s COVID-19 screening kit pick-up appointments have been nearly fully booked into the new year (the Chamber supplies test kits to area businesses), and many of the participating local family health care clinics are reporting dwindling supplies of take-home PCR tests. This has led to many people asking what will be done to ensure more take-home test availability. However, KFL&A Public Health reiterated that Public Health does not offer rapid antigen or PCR testing at their offices, and that weekly antigen testing is not available at the Beechgrove Assessment Centre.
“Testing is offered through local assessment centres, pharmacies and some primary care offices,” Public Health said.
While 89.7 per cent of those aged 12 and over in KFL&A have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and 83.1 per cent of those aged five and over have had two doses, the percentage positivity of COVID-19 in the region continues to remain at an all-time high, with the COVID-19 Canada Open Data Working Group showing the KFL&A region at over 900 cases per 100,00 over the past two weeks as of 1:45 p.m. today, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021 (934 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days; 564 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days).
There are currently 1,539 active cases of COVID-19 in the KFL&A region.