DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: New Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking spoke about a number of COVID-19 related topics during a virtual media press conference, on Wednesday, April 21st.
One of the subjects she spoke about was the current supply of COVID-19 vaccines.


“Over the next couple of weeks, there will be fewer appointments in those mass immunization clinics because we have less supply overall. We’ve heard from the provincial government and we’re keeping our fingers crossed. You’ve likely heard the federal announcements about the increase of supply of the Pfizer vaccine coming, hopefully, [somewhere between] mid-May to end of May. I’m quite hopeful, that will enable us to really operate all of the mass immunization clinics at their full capacity,” Dr. Bocking said.


The local medical officer talked about the AstraZeneca vaccine blood clot concerns.


“With any new medication or vaccine, it is very closely monitored. I think because COVID-19 is on everybody’s mind, we are seeing lots [of information] in the media about the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine. There’s what was found out in clinical trials, and then there’s the real world evidence emerging, as the AstraZeneca vaccine is being used in multiple countries around the world. The safety concern [which] has been talked about and identified has been this risk of a rare blood clot. Multiple organizations, really, have identified the risk of this rare blood clot [as] about one per 100,000, [or] up to one [in] 250,000 people. The risk of getting [COVID-19], and becoming quite ill with it is higher than any risks identified with the vaccine,” Dr. Bocking explained.


When asked if she would have any hesitation receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine herself, Dr. Bocking said no.


The local health unit is noticing more COVID-19 cases in people under the age of 20.


“This could be [because of] two things. One, we’ve been able to vaccinate the higher risk, older population. [The second is], the variants we are seeing have been reported to cause infections in younger populations. Not necessarily in children, but in the younger population overall,” Dr. Bocking said.


With the Ontario provincial government keeping playgrounds open, Dr. Bocking provided her input as to whether masks should be required at these sites.


“I have a young child; and I was quite surprised how good they were at keeping their masks on when all they’ve seen at school are people with masks on. We know outdoors is safer than indoors. We know, even [at] playgrounds, we want outdoor activity to be safe, and that’s still keeping distances [between children]. If there’s any chance people are going to be any closer than two metres distance, I’d be encouraging people to wear masks. I think it’s really more about distance and making sure people are aware, and looking after their safety, as well as their family’s safety.”