By Dr. Adam Kassam
In a recent Ontario Medical Association survey, we asked Ontario’s doctors to tell us if they had been vaccinated. A full 98 per cent of those who responded said they had.
This is a clear reflection of physicians’ steadfast belief in the effectiveness of vaccines in leading Ontario, Canada and indeed the world out of the COVID-19 pandemic. As doctors, we have reviewed (in some cases, developed) the science behind the vaccines being offered to fight this deadly virus, and vaccines unequivocally have our endorsement.
In rolling up our own sleeves to get the jab, we are taking care of ourselves, our patients and our communities. Now, we are strongly urging not just our patients, but the entire medical community — anyone who works in health care — to follow suit.
While it’s possible that the rate of vaccination among health-care workers is already higher than among the general population, we are nevertheless concerned that even a single person who spends their days or nights caring for the sick and injured, or anyone involved in preventative medicine, or diagnostic testing would hesitate to seek out the vaccines that are so obviously saving lives and reducing serious illness.
We are calling on all health-care workers to have the COVID-19 vaccination and believe strongly that this should be mandatory so that everyone involved in health care may protect their own health as well as the health of the patients they serve and the people around them.
The science shows vaccines are the best way to control the spread of COVID-19 and are an essential component in personal and community health.
In the most recent data available, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health said that nearly 80 per cent of Ontario’s eligible population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Kieran Moore also said modelling suggests that a vaccination rate of 90 per cent among the eligible population of Ontarians aged 12-plus may be required to protect us from the emerging and extremely contagious Delta variant, which has grown dominant in Ontario.
While infection rates remain much lower than at the peak of the pandemic’s third wave, people are still contracting COVID-19. Many are still seeking out a doctor. Some of those patients are requiring hospitalization. Regrettably, some are still dying.
Public Health Ontario has estimated that the risk of contracting COVID-19 in June was 4.7 times higher for unvaccinated people, compared to those fully vaccinated, and 3.4 times higher than for those who have had a single dose. Among those who contract the virus, the risk of being hospitalized is three times higher than for those who have received at least one shot.
Maximizing vaccination rates will allow Ontario to move toward normalcy.
The virus simply cannot spread widely when most of the population is immune. Children can return to school. Young adults can safely go back to college, or university. Workplaces can re-open. Families can reunite. All without over burdening our intensive care units and health-care system more generally.
Without reaching a higher rate of overall vaccination, unvaccinated people are vulnerable and pose a threat to those who have had their shots, especially to our older community and those who are immune-suppressed, or otherwise vulnerable. Without vaccinated health-care workers, we risk infecting vulnerable children under 12 who need our care.
To say the past 17 months has been challenging is an understatement. Too many people lost their lives. Husbands buried wives, and vice versa. There are sons and daughters without parents and young people without grandparents. Some of those who survived are experiencing long-term effects. Jobs were lost, or put on hold. Children lived in isolation from their friends. Family connections were broken. Mental health issues and addictions are on the rise.
No one wants the pandemic to continue any longer than necessary.
My message to the 2.4 million Ontarians who are eligible to be vaccinated but haven’t yet done so is to talk to your doctor, get informed, and get the shot as soon as possible. To those who have had one dose, and not the second. Make an appointment now.
To health-care workers, I say it’s your duty to protect yourself and protect others. Don’t wait for it to be mandatory to be vaccinated. Whether that happens or not, do the right thing, and get your first and second dose. You owe it to yourselves, your family and to those you care for.
Dr. Adam Kassam is President of the Ontario Medical Association.