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COVID-19 waves could end in six to eight months — but only if vaccination rate goes up, Ontario’s top doctor warns


COVID-19 waves could end in six to eight months — but only if vaccination rate goes up, Ontario’s top doctor warns

Ontario could be clear of pandemic waves by next spring if at least 90 per cent of people soon get vaccinated against COVID-19, the province’s chief medical officer says.

With the pace of vaccinations largely stalled around 75 per cent with two doses after a slow climb this summer, Dr. Kieran Moore said reaching 90 per cent could lift the province to a state of “community immunity” where it is difficult for the virus to thrive.

“Instead of having waves that we’re going to have to tolerate, we’ll have small outbreaks that we’ll learn to live with,” Moore told a weekly briefing Tuesday.

“That will have a smaller impact on the health-care system and allow us to start to pull away some of the public health measures … that could happen as early as six to eight months from now,” he added, echoing a time frame given Monday by Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden.

About 2.2 million eligible Ontarians are yet to be vaccinated, along with children born after 2009, an under-12 age group for which shots are not yet approved.

Cases of COVID-19 in Ontario are doubling every 22 days because of the “formidable and aggressive” Delta strain now driving a fourth wave, said Moore, who signalled last week that Ontario is facing a “difficult fall and winter.”

The doubling rate means Ontario could reach 1,200 infections daily by mid-September and see a further increase in hospitalizations and admissions to intensive care units. This month, hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 have almost doubled and mainly involve the unvaccinated.

With vaccination levels highest in older age groups, 73 per cent of new cases since March have been in people under 50, who also account for almost 28 per cent of hospitalizations, Moore added.

Moore applauded the growing list of businesses with proof-of-vaccination policies but continued to resist a provincial vaccine passport.

A day after British Columbia announced COVID-19 vaccine certificates for entry into restaurants, fitness centres and other venues, Moore said Ontario is content to wait for the federal government to develop international vaccine passports that can be used domestically.

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“We are looking at those options,” Moore said on the same day the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released guidance for its members seeking to develop proof-of-vaccine protocols in the absence of a provincial system.

“I’m very supportive many of these businesses that have adopted immunization strategies,” Moore told a weekly briefing where he warned that people who have not had their shots are “playing roulette” with the highly contagious Delta variant.

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca renewed his call for Premier Doug Ford to implement a provincial vaccine certificate system to help businesses stay open and reduce risks as the fourth wave of the pandemic takes a deeper hold.

“There is no longer any excuse not to engage in a meaningful discussion,” said Del Duca, urging Ford to meet with opposition parties and groups pushing for a system to be in place as soon as possible.

Toronto Mayor John Tory bemoaned the “patchwork” of rules being imposed by employers and said “we need a better plan on this and we need better guidelines coming from governments.”

Ford has said Ontarians can download proof of vaccination off a provincial website and businesses are welcome to check it. But there are concerns that businesses that require proof of vaccination will become targets for anti-vaxxers. That’s been the experience of Toronto restaurateur Jen Agg, who owns Rhum Corner, Bar Vendetta and Cocktail Bar.

“It’s been four weeks of targeted harassment,” Agg, who has gone public in support of vaccine passports, told the Star’s Francine Kopun.

While the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is pressing for details on the vaccination level needed to allow gyms, restaurants and other businesses to fully open, Moore could not specify one.

The target had been set at 75 per cent — which was reached Monday — but was scrapped weeks ago because of the Delta variant.

With files from David Rider.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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