By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Despite an outcry from the so-called freedom fighters, it looks like Ontario’s new vaccine passport may be having the desired effect.
At a vaccine clinic held at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance Sept. 1 – the same day Premier Doug Ford announced the passport – 360 people stepped forward to get the jab locally.
“We needed to extend the hours,” said Dr. David Colby, Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health, adding the “tremendous” response involved a cross section of the population, not just hospital workers.
Ontario’s vaccine passport will come into effect Sept. 22 and will limit activities such going to the movies, or dining indoors to only the vaccinated.
People will be required to show proof of vaccination and personal identification to staff when entering at the first deadline. Then, on Oct. 22, the province is expected to unveil a scannable or printed QR code as proof of immunization.
Ontario joins Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia as the Canadian provinces that are adopting vaccine passports.
Ontario’s top science table says the province’s COVID-19 vaccination rates must top 85 per cent in order to avoid another lockdown.
“Who wants that?” Colby asked during a municipal press conference.
Colby said the new rule is viewed harshly by some, but the majority of people have rolled up their sleeves to get the vaccine to help society.
As for the detractors, Colby said there is very little he can say at this point to change anyone’s mind.
The doctor likened the current vaccine passport to the dilemma public health faced when it first prohibited smoking in restaurants and public spaces.
He went on to say no one would dream of lighting up nowadays, but in the beginning there was a huge outcry against the restriction.
“Not everybody is happy,” Colby acknowledged, but he noted change has several phases.
Initial resistance is followed by gradual acceptance, he said, which leads to acceptance and then to societal anger that the rules weren’t adopted earlier.
Colby stressed the new vaccine passport does not stop the unvaccinated from accessing essential services.
He added that while he thinks Ontario’s passport is a good program, he would like to see it expanded further to include staff manning the venues where the passport is required.
Chatham-Kent’s active cases of COVID-19 have continued to climb in the past two weeks.
Colby said all of the municipality’s COVID-19 current cases are in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people.
He said all of the cases are linked, with eight occurring in a congregate living setting.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 47 new cases reported in Chatham-Kent over the holiday weekend, against 26 deemed resolved. That saw an increase in our active cases by 21 to 98.
Seventy-two per cent of people in Chatham-Kent who have contracted COVID-19 since July 1 have been unvaccinated, against 13.6 per cent partially vaccinated, 7.9 per cent fully vaccinated and 6.4 per cent of unknown status.
Nine people are hospitalized, up three from Friday.
An outbreak has been declared in the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s medicine unit, as two people in that unit tested positive.