Vaccines are failing to get to where COVID-19 is spreading fastest in Ontario, data shows
TORONTO -- A CTV News analysis of COVID-19 data in Ontario doesn’t show a systematic politicization of where the provincial government put vaccine priority hotspots — but it does show a broad pattern of vaccines failing to get to where the virus is spreading the most.
Postal code zones in Toronto and Peel Region showed the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases per 100 people, while having among the lowest vaccination rates, according to the data.
Meanwhile other parts of the province, including Kingston and Lambton, showed far lower rates of COVID transmission and were much farther ahead in vaccine uptake.
All of it was a sign of how the province should have acted faster to start vaccinating essential workers in hot spots, including in Brampton, said city councillor Rowena Santos.
“We have a fire going on in Brampton when it comes to COVID,” she said. “The first and second waves were already reaching critical points, but in the third wave it was getting worse and worse. We need to be prioritizing the hot spots.”
The data, compiled by ICES on April 5, is a snapshot in time that shows where cases were at that time.
Since then, the decision to prioritize the hot spot neighbourhoods, including Brampton, could already be having an impact, said infectious diseases specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch.
“Hopefully we start to see some equalization. We start to see some of the greater uptake in these neighbourhoods,” he said.
For example, in the postal code zone of K7R in Kingston, there were 0.26 COVID-19 cases per 100 people, and 19.8 per cent of people of all ages vaccinated with at least 1 dose.
But in L6P in Brampton, there are 7.25 COVID-19 cases per 100 people, and only 7.2 per cent vaccinated with at least one dose.
That’s almost 28 times the COVID-19 cases per capita than in Kingston, and just over a third of the proportion of the population vaccinated, the data show.
Part of the reason for the higher numbers in Kingston is that region had an overallocation of vaccines because it was part of the pharmacy vaccination pilot program, said Peel’s Medical Health Officer Dr. Lawrence Loh.
“In Peel we’ve only just started to get our fair share this week and next,” he said, adding that hospital admissions from severe COVID-19 cases and their variants are severely straining hospitals.
“Our situation is extremely dire here in Peel. Our hospitals are well over capacity. Osler is transferring over 50 patients a day to different parts of Ontario. We are facing a significant calamity,” he said.
But he said the decision to vaccinate long-term care home residents first is saving lives across the province, and vaccinating health-care workers is helping prepare for the coming surge.
The New Democratic Party have called for an investigation into the way hot spots were chosen. An analysis of the 114 hot spots show that the majority of them are clearly in regions where there are higher case loads and lower vaccine uptake.
There are some that are less obvious, which occur in PC-held ridings. Ontario’s Auditor-General has not said whether it will pursue an investigation.
The premier’s office released a statement today saying the hot spots were identified on analysis conducted by the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, which relied on data from Public Health Ontario.
The analysis looked at hospitalizations, outbreak data, low testing rates, and deaths during the second wave of the pandemic.
“This work applied an anti-racism lens to ensure Ontario protects vulnerable communities,” the statement read. “The opposition has spread misinformation and dangerously politicized the province’s efforts to vaccinate 114 high-risk neighbourhoods.”