On July 27, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, provided an update on the government’s response to the present COVID19 pandemic. In the presentation, he indicates that there will be different regulations for fully vaccinated staff and students when classes resume this fall. Earlier this month, Premier Doug Ford promised Ontarians that he would not make vaccinations mandatory. Although the Government of Ontario’s goal is to have the highest possible immunization rates, it will not create vaccine passports as proof of vaccination for businesses and other organizations. Ford has made it quite clear that he does not want a “split society” in Ontario.
Despite these reassurances, Moore said that the provincial government will implement a “different approach” for vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff. He said that this fall there will be a new model which will not require whole classes to isolate at home if there are positive COVID-19 cases, but that fully vaccinated will be able to return more promptly to school. In the question-and-answer period, Moore emphasized that students and staff who are fully vaccinated have a “terrific advantage” since they will be “able to stay in school and attend sports and participate fully in all the social activities of the school setting.” In contrast, he provided discouraging words for those who are not fully immunized: “If you are not immunized and you’ve been in contact with the high risk contact, you’ll be off for a minimum of 10 days and you will have to get two tests, one initially and then another around day seven. If that test day seven is positive, you’re off for another 10 days so you can see that there’s a potential for up to 20 days off from school because you weren’t immunized.”
Nationally, according to the latest data from July 24, close to 29 percent of children aged 12 to 17 remain unvaccinated. The Government of Ontario’s push to maximize vaccination rates among children contradicts the World Health Organization’s recommendation. Their webpage states that: “Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers. More evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against COVID-19.” A number of scientists and medical doctors across Canada have raised concerns over the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for children and adolescents who have a very low probability for hospitalization or death.
The Ford government plans on releasing a back-to-school-plan early this August. However, the emergent delta variant, due to its high transmissibility and severity, could hinder the province’s gradual reopening. A CDC document revealed that vaccinated individuals are spreading the delta variant just as rapidly as the unvaccinated. Moreover, according to a disconcerting report from the CDC yesterday, there was a COVID outbreak among 74 percent out of 469 individuals who were fully vaccinated in a Massachusetts county.
On July 21, in another important development, the CDC urged laboratories to transition from Real-Time PCR COVID tests to a new FDA approved kit that can distinguish between Sars-CoV-2 and influenza viruses. Given this information it will be interesting to see if the provincial government will reevaluate their position regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff.