OUTAOUAIS – As of September 1, until further notice, the Québec government has mandated digitized or paper-proof vaccination passports for people aged 13 and over to be able to engage in non-essential activities such as going to restaurants, bars, gyms, and large festivals.
The Centre intégré de la santé et des services sociaux de l’Outaouais’ (CISSSO) recommends that everyone 12 years and up get vaccinated and reminds people to wait at least four weeks between doses –
noting it should take several months to effectively immunize the local population.
Although the province currently has a 89% vaccination rate (amongst those who are eligible) for first doses and 82.4% for the second, the Outaouais lags behind, especially the Pontiac; 78.5% of Outaouais residents have received their first dose and 68.8% their second, compared to 67% and 63% respectively for the Pontiac.
Since introducing vaccine passports, CISSSO spokesperson Camille Brochu-Lafrance said there has been a noticeable uptick in appointments for first and second doses in the region.
While an unspecified number of residents have been getting vaccinated in Ontario – making for reduced numbers of recorded vaccinations in the Outaouais – she said the region’s vaccination rates have remained stable with no indication as to why they would be relatively lower than other regions.
“We’re making sure vaccines are available,” Brochu-Lafrance said.
As kids return to school and COVID cases continue to rise across the world with new variants popping up, Pontiac MNA André Fortin told the Journal that getting vaccinated is increasingly important.
“It’s our way to keep the most vulnerable populations safe, and in the context where children are unvaccinated and are most vulnerable to the Delta variant, we all have a responsibility to get it as quickly as possible,” Fortin said.
Dr. Ruth Vander Stelt, a Pontiac family doctor, said some of her patients have concerns about the effectiveness of the vaccine and its potential side-effects, and that a minority of people in the area seem to be less preoccupied with the effect the virus might have on them.
“COVID hasn’t really hit the Pontiac very hard,” Vander Stelt said. “So, people are wondering if they’re just better off [not getting it]. The thing about COVID is the closer you get to it, the more you fear it.
If you’re not close to
COVID, you think the vaccine is the greater evil,” she added, noting people are particularly concerned about the vaccine’s long-term health impacts and how they were created.
However, she fervently believes getting the population immunized is the only feasible solution to end the pandemic.
“You just have to do it,” Vander Stelt said, noting she also felt initially hesitant about getting vaccinated. “We’re not going to get out of this thing otherwise. [The virus] is wreaking havoc on our society.”
Pointing to one positive from the pandemic, Vander Stelt noted many of her patients who have been working from home say it’s a refreshing adjustment for their mental health compared to before the crisis.
She said the pandemic has been mostly devastating for society and has caused heightened drug abuse, domestic violence, and socioeconomic strife, but working remotely has been an advantage for some people.
“If they can keep [teleworking up] it’s indirectly going to be good for the Pontiac’s economy because more people are going to want to live in the countryside,” she added.
“Overall, we’ve learned things from the pandemic, but we need to get out of this thing,” she concluded.