The Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Board of Health met on Wednesday in a hybrid format. For the first time in over two years most board members and staff got together in the same room at Public Health’s Chancellors Way headquarters while others tuned in via Zoom, so one might be forgiven for assuming that the pandemic is almost over. Dr. Nicola Mercer made it clear though that there’s still some I’s to dot and T’s to cross.
Mercer announced that she and her staff are currently preparing for the vaccination of kids between six months and four years. Moderna has applied to Health Canada to use their vaccine for this age group, and she expects that the nation’s public health authorities will render a positive decision sometime this summer.
“I can’t tell you when they’re going to grant permission, it could be as early as June, or it could be as late as August, but we do strongly believe that this vaccine will be approved,” Mercer said. “Recognizing that many of those children are being seen by primary care, we will be working with our very important community partners and our physicians to deliver this vaccine with public health also being involved, but much of the heavy lifting can be done by primary care for this particular age group.”
As for the fall, Mercer indicated that there will be the new and improved “bivalent” vaccine for COVID-19, which will offer stronger, longer-lasting protection from the virus. “Up until this point in time, the vaccine we’re providing to everyone has been based on the original virus from Wuhan, the very first strain that we had, and that was the the template manufacturers used to create the vaccines,” Mercer explained.
While the original recipe vaccine has been very effective against the Beta and Delta strains, the strain was showing with Omicron as fully vaccinated people were getting more symptomatic when infected.
“Moderna is certainly well advanced in that research, they’re saying that they will have a new vaccine available, and I anticipate that all the manufacturers will follow suit,” Mercer said. “That is coming this fall, I cannot tell you what the timing is or anything like that, but once they’re available, public health here will certainly be providing them, and we’ll make sure that this vaccine is available broadly across our area to all populations.”
Mercer addressed another growing public health concern in Canada and around the world, the increasing number of cases of acute hepatitis in children.
“To date we have no children under investigation in our area, and as of this morning I’m not aware that any health unit in Ontario that’s been notified that they have a child in the areas with a diagnosis, but we’re still proceeding out of an abundance of caution,” Mercer explained.
“I would just remind everyone that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of physicians and scientists around the world trying to discover what is the exact cause is, and there’s been a number of theories,” Mercer added. “None of the theories have yet to be proven, or confirmed, as to the exact cause, but I think the takeaway is that it’s still a very rare event.”
The meeting also took time to recognize all the region’s nurses for National Nursing Week, which runs from now until May 15. Mercer and the board paid tribute to the the combined nursing power that spent a total of 12,239 days working in vaccine clinics, the 25 nurses who each did over 100 shifts each, and one nurse in particular who handed out nearly 5,500 vaccine shots on her own. For the record, each nurse gave out, on average, 913 vaccine doses.
On Wednesday, there were still 298 active cases of COVID-19 in the region according to WDG Public Health’s dashboard including 158 in Guelph alone. There were just 10 new cases, but there were 45 total recovered cases. In all, 21,879 people in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph are known to have been infected with COVID since the start of the pandemic, and 161 local people have died from the virus.