These priority vaccination hot spots are less affected by COVID-19 than the Ontario average

These priority vaccination hot spots are less affected by COVID-19 than the Ontario average

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Ontario is giving priority access to COVID-19 vaccines to some neighborhoods that have been significantly less affected by the pandemic than other areas not designated as hot spots, analysis of CBC News data reveals.
According to data compiled by ICES, a research institute focused on health issues in Ontario, five postal code areas declared as hotspots have lower rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalization and death. provincial averages.

Designating a hotspot gives people in these areas a higher priority for vaccinations, despite their below-average pandemic burden. More than 175,000 people live in the five postal code zones, including four in ridings represented by Progressive Conservative MPs.

CBC’s review of the data identified seven zip code areas that felt a greater impact from COVID-19 as measured by official province criteria, but which are not classified as hot spots. All are located in constituencies held by opposition parties.

The findings raise questions about why some neighborhoods enjoy preferential access to vaccines, even though they have suffered less impact from COVID-19 than many other parts of the province.

The provincial government last Tuesday released a list of 114 postal code areas designated as hot spots and announced the start of targeted vaccinations in those areas for people aged 50 and over.

The next day, Premier Doug Ford announced that all adults in these hotspots would be eligible to be immunized immediately.

More than 4.2 million people live in hotspots, according to 2016 census data. There are concerns that by assigning the hotspot designation to too much of the population, the province risks diverting immunization resources regions and people who need it most.

“If you can’t guarantee that there is a more targeted approach and that there is indeed a mobilization towards the people, the ones we are trying to reach, who we know are in neighborhoods on fire will continue to be threatened, ”said Dr Andrew Boozary, director of the University Health Network’s social medicine program.

“You have people in a zip code who are relatively well vaccinated against COVID because of their employment status, their income, their living conditions,” Boozary said in an interview on Sunday. “They are not the ones who risk spreading it or ultimately those who are most at risk of hospitalization or death. ”

The Ford government has set a goal of vaccinating 40% of Ontarians against COVID-19 by the time the current home support order expires in early May. (Grant Linton / CBC)

The Ministry of Health’s official vaccine prioritization document states that communities to be designated as hotspots are those where data shows “historic and continuing high rates of COVID-19, death, and serious illness (for example, hospitalization) ”.

ICES data shows that 95 percent of postal codes designated as hotspots have reported at least 2.2 cases of COVID-19 per 100 people and at least 0.95 hospitalizations and deaths per 1,000 people.

However, the five zip codes with the questionable hotspot designations do not reach any of these benchmarks.

Here is an overview of each of the postcode areas in question.

L6C Markham

This part of Markham, north and east of Buttonville Airport, is home to approximately 51,000 people. It has the lowest cumulative COVID-19 case rate among any hotspots: only 1.24% of its population has had a confirmed case since the start of the pandemic. More than 200 postcode areas not designated as hotspots report higher infection rates.

Its death and hospitalization rate is 0.57 per 1,000 people, about a tenth of the rate in the M3N postal code, the heavily affected neighborhood of Jane and Finch in northwest Toronto.

L4B Richmond Hill

Just west of L6C, across Highway 400, is a postcode area that covers the southeast corner of Richmond Hill, with a population of approximately 36,000. Only 1.4% of its population has had a confirmed case of COVID-19, and its death and hospitalization rate is 0.66 per 1,000 people, well below the provincial average.

L4B reported an above-average positivity rate for COVID-19 testing (10.55%) in the most recent week for which data is available. However, the government has not indicated that a high test positivity rate alone would qualify a location to be called a hotspot.

The provincial government has designated these 114 postal code areas for priority access to COVID-19 vaccinations. (Ministry of Health)

K2V Kanata

This area is located south of the Queensway along Terry Fox Drive. The latest census figures show only 2,435 people living in K2V, making it one of Ottawa’s least populated postcode areas. The area is largely light industrial and is home to several large employers, including Honeywell Aerospace, Lockeed Martin Canada and a Ford Motor Company office, as well as Costco and Home Depot outlets.

Data shows that K2V has the lowest hospitalization and death rate among the 114 designated hotspots, at just 0.35 per 1,000. That’s less than the rate in some 300 postcode areas not designated as hotspots. .

M5V Toronto

Condo towers make up the bulk of this postcode area centered around Spadina Avenue, between Queen Street and the Toronto waterfront. The average income of a person living in this neighborhood is about 50% higher than the Ontario average, according to Statistics Canada data.

Although a large number of infections have been reported in this densely populated part of the city, the infection rate (1.96%) is lower than the Ontario average (2.5%). The hospitalization and death rate is also well below average, possibly based on the generally young population of the neighborhood.

Health worker Thi Nguyen administers the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine to a patient at a COVID-19 clinic in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

L6E Markham

This area north of 16th Avenue and east of McCowan Road covers the neighborhoods of Wismer and Greensborough. Its case rate (1.85%) and hospitalization and death rate (0.88 per 1,000 people) are lower than those of dozens of postcode areas that do not have the hotspot designation and l priority access to accompanying vaccinations.

Hamilton hot spots left out

Despite ranking as the fifth-most affected public health unit in Ontario (in terms of COVID-19 cases per population), only two postal code areas in Hamilton – L8W and L9C – have been designated as hotspots, just 12 % of its population eligible for priority access to vaccination.

In York Region, more than 600,000 people live in postcode areas designated as hotspots – roughly half of the population.

Last week, after the province announced priority postal codes for vaccinations, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, publicly called on the government to add three more city neighborhoods to the list.

The government did not comply. Richardson took matters into his own hands and declared North Hamilton (L8L), Stinson Ward (L8N) and part of Ancaster (L9K) as places where all residents aged 50 and over could be vaccinated in city ​​clinics on weekends.

People lined up outside this Richmond Hill sports center on March 1, the first day of mass COVID-19 vaccination for residents of York Region. More than 600,000 people in York Region live in postcode areas designated as hotspots, giving about half of its population priority access to the vaccine. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

Selective Ottawa in hot spots

The province has designated three Ottawa postal codes – K1T, K1V and K2V – as hot spots. Ottawa Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches advises that not everyone living under these postal codes will have priority access to COVID-19 vaccines

“These are large geographic areas that have more advantaged and less advantaged populations within them,” Etches said in a statement Friday.

Etches said Ottawa would create pop-up vaccination clinics in hot spots, but only in a few high-priority neighborhoods in two of the three postcode areas, and none in K2V.

Meanwhile, some politicians in and around Ottawa are calling on the province to increase the number of COVID-19 hotspots in hopes of improving access to vaccines for people living in hard-hit areas.

Ontario neighborhoods most affected by COVID-19 have much lower vacancy rates compared to richer areas where the virus has had little impact, according to an ICES study.

In all designated hotspots in Ontario, only people aged 50 and over can book immunization appointments through the provincial reservation system now. For those under 50, the government has indicated that access will be through pop-up clinics and mobile vaccination teams, starting with Toronto and Peel.

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