By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
When it comes to COVID-19 and students returning to school there are more questions than answers.
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby told a municipal press conference Thursday the health unit is awaiting direction from the province regarding back-to-school protocols.
“It’s coming soon, that’s all I can say,” Colby told reporters, adding all health units Ontario are anticipating the news.
However, the window for a student to have a two-dose summer and become fully vaccinated is closing with the new school year set to begin Sept. 7.
A four-week interval between first and second doses is mandatory.
There’s some concern, Colby said, with vaccination rates slowing in Chatham-Kent, particularly among younger residents.
Local COVID-19 immunization rates are lagging behind the rest of Ontario in every age group except for those 60 and older.
Colby said there’s been an excellent response from older adults in the municipality, but the number drops off significantly in younger age groups.
Colby said the health unit will continue to reach out to the community in a variety of ways, and depending on what the province mandates, immunization clinics at schools could be a possibility this fall.
“We’ll be using every means at our disposal,” he said, adding walk-ins are now encouraged and pop-up clinics are also being held.
Chatham-Kent was off to a roaring start at the beginning of the vaccination campaign, so it perplexes Colby that the municipality now lags behind.
He says he doesn’t understand why Chatham-Kent residents aren’t fully onboard to get the shot, considering the many ways the community comes together to help others and support projects.
“Why we haven’t seen a robust response is a real mystery,” he said. “We need to do better.”
The ongoing threat of the virulent COVID-19 Delta variant adds to the concern.
Colby cited the Delta outbreak in Grey Bruce this summer as an example of using the vaccine to bring the spread under control.
“They vaccinated their way out of it,” Colby explained.
As for Chatham-Kent staying healthy, prevention by way of the vaccine is the preferred option.
“We know what we’ve got to do, we’ve just got to do it.”