Ontario now vaccinating the least affected people, data shows

The Ontario government's vaccine program is strongest in affluent neighbourhoods and jumping over the essential workers who face the greatest danger in wave three, data shows.

The Canadian Press with CNC files

As variants continue to send more younger people to hospital, data shows Ontario is getting vaccines to the wrong people and the province needs to switch up its strategy, infectious disease experts say.

Yesterday, while some federal Liberals pointed out that the province has millions of doses in freezers, Premier Doug Ford shot back at critics on Tuesday, saying most of those doses are spoken for.

"We are ready to go," Ford said. "We have over 1.3 million appointments booked."

But many health care experts say right people might not hold those bookings.

Data released Tuesday from the ICES, formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, showed the postal codes with the highest rates of vaccination are in areas with among the lowest hospitalization rates. And areas with the lowest vaccination rates are those where vaccination has been slowest.

The three Toronto postal codes with the highest vaccination are St. Clair and Rosedale, Forest Hill and Forest Hill South, among the most affluent areas of the city. The lowest vaccination rate is in the postal code at Jane and Finch, one of the city's lowest-income neighbourhoods.

Ford said the government is currently working on a plan to vaccinate essential workers, but those workers won't get their shots until mid-May, according to the province's framework released Tuesday.

That delay may cost lives, some medical experts fear.

"We have to be nimble and change," said Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease professor at Queen's University.

"The segment of the population that's driving most of the pandemic is in fact those who are younger, the age groups between about 20 to 40 years old who are doing essential work," he said.

In the third wave of the pandemic, the new variants of concern have created a new vulnerable population - young essential workers, Evans said.

The new variants are both more transmissible and lead to more severe illnesses, Ontario data shows.

"The original policy to start with the older ages and move down has been good because it was reacting to actual clinical data," said Dr. Omar F. Khan, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto.

"With the variants, there’s new data emerging that young people are looking like a new vulnerable population and we have to look at vaccinating them."

Matthew Miller, an infectious disease professor at McMaster University, said the province must now focus on those who cannot work safely from home, he said.

"There has been some communication around addressing that gap in recent days, but we should have this figured out already," Miller said.

"The more we can target populations who are at high risk of contracting the virus, the more effective we will be at being able to prevent the spread of that virus to other lower risk groups," Miller said.

The premier has been calling for more vaccine deliveries from Ottawa, saying the province's immunization plan is contingent on the availability of vaccine supply.

"We’re doing more than anyone with both hands tied behind our backs with dribs and drabs of vaccines,” Ford said at a news conference Tuesday. Earlier in the day the federal minister of health tweeted that Ontario had now received about four million vaccine doses while only about 2.5 million had been administered.

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