It could be a very bright light at the end of the tunnel for one of the most ravaged Canadian hot spots during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peel Region has been among the hardest hit municipalities across the country, and while it is still engaged in an ongoing battle with the third wave, the region’s top doctor says he can see a way out.
Peel’s Chief Medial Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, tells 680 NEWS the region has already vaccinated half a million residents and could hit herd immunity before the start of summer.
“You are looking at five to six weeks until we get about 1.1 million (vaccinated),” says Loh.
Most health experts say in order to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, approximately 70 per cent of residents would need to have immunity against the virus.
Peel Region’s population is nearly 1.5 million, getting 1.1 million vaccinated would surpass 70 per cent mark.
“The reality is that at the pace we are at in our mass vaccination clinics, 100-thousand doses a week,” says Loh. “The more people we get quickly through that, (we are) getting close to that magic number.”
Loh stresses that vaccines remain the best and most efficient way to defeat the virus and the mass vaccination clinics in the region are ultimately what will help get Peel to the other side of the pandemic.
The overwhelming majority, approximately 85 per cent, of Peel residents live in provincially designated hot spots. Because of this, Loh says the region’s mass clinics can be considered as giant pop-up clinics since they are almost entirely vaccinating hot spot residents.
“It’s the easiest way to think about those mass clinics, they are pop-ups, really big pop-ups in a significant hotspot in Ontario,” he says. “The fastest way through is still relying on our mass clinics as our backbone.”
Despite the glimmer of hope, Peel continues to see the virus spread at a rate that is outpacing the rest of the province.
Loh says he is cautiously optimistic that the region should start seeing a plateau in the next week as the effects of the province’s stay-at home measures start to bear fruit.
Within Peel, Brampton has been specifically hard hit as the city has a weekly COVID positivity rate of 22.2 per cent that remained close to a record set last week.
That number is more than triple the provincial rate and higher than the 18.3 per cent for Peel as a whole.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said Wednesday that the city’s ICUs are well beyond capacity.
“We are in a permanent cycle where patients have to be sent to hospitals across Southern Ontario,” says Brown. “And that’s not a sustainable situation to be in.”
Ontario reported 3,480 new COVID-19 cases and 24 additional deaths on Wednesday.
The province has reported four consecutive days under 4,000 cases. The rolling seven-day average is down to 3,783 from 4,327 a week ago. It is the lowest average in over two weeks.
With files from 680 NEWS reporter Irene Preklet