Ontario's wealthiest zones get head start on second doses, data shows
TORONTO -- A major push is under way to get vaccines to those more at risk as the Delta variant spreads through parts of Ontario, but new data shows that some of the people who are most in need appear to be falling behind.
Despite strategies to make sure vulnerable communities get more vaccines first, data shows that wealthier postal codes appear to be sprinting ahead, leaving poorer and more racialized communities playing catch-up.
“Immunization coverage isn’t what it ought to be,” said Dr. Akwatu Khenti of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity. “We need to amplify the efforts to protect this population that is at risk.”
In order to combat the spread of the Delta variant, Ontario prioritized several regions to receive more second doses, including Toronto, Peel Region, Halton and York Region.
“We know, from our experts, they say the rate of transmission is higher, and the impacts on hospitalization is higher than the UK variant,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. David Williams, told reporter Monday.
The independent research organization ICES breaks down the vaccination rates and COVID-19 spread by postal code. For the first time last week, the agency reported out statistics on second doses of vaccines as of June 7, 2021.
Among the targeted regions, wealthier postal codes appear to have a head start: the farthest ahead is the postal code zone of M5P that includes parts of Forest Hill, at 17.55 per cent fully vaccinated.
Farthest behind includes M3N, which includes the area around Jane and Finch, at 4.97 per cent, and M9V, the area that includes Rexdale, sits at 4.58 per cent.
Those areas include racialized people, poorer people, and people who may be at greater risk in the first place, said Dr. David Burt of the Black Scientists’ Task Force on Vaccine Equity.
“Many are in the service industry, they can’t work from home, they have to take public transit, they have to work in the health-care sector,” Dr. Burt said.
The picture is similar to the inequity of the first stage of the vaccine rollout, and those who got their first doses first are now eligible earlier for their second doses.
Toronto’s Sprint Strategy is targeting certain areas to undo the imbalance, and other pop-up clinics like ones operated by the Scarborough Health Network are targeting people who live and work in certain high-risk postal codes.
A pop-up at Agincourt Collegiate Institute on Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. will give second doses of Pfizer to people in the M1B, M1G, M1J and M1S postal codes.