February 28th, 2024

Get the shots, city tells under 40s

By COLLIN GALLANT on August 18, 2021.

Hatters aged 20 to 40 need to get vaccinated in order to slow down a "dangerous" increase in COVID-19 cases, according to chief medical officer of health for the South zone, Dr. Vivien Suttorp. She spoke in support of a city-led information campaign launched Tuesday by director of emergency management, Merrick Brown (right), at Medicine Hat city hall.--News Photo Collin Gallant

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Spiking COVID-19 cases in Medicine Hat are the result of low immunization levels among 20- to 40-year-olds, health and city emergency officials told media while launching a campaign to get more of that age group vaccinated.

Medicine Hat’s active cases are 10 times higher than three weeks ago, and among the highest in the province on a per-capita basis.

No official breakdown on cases is made available, but senior AHS officials at the press event Tuesday said local hospitalizations and new cases overwhelmingly involve the 20- and 30-year-old age groups, and mostly those without any level of vaccine protection.

“There is a very clear picture of what the problem is and the simple solution is that people in that age group have to get vaccinated,” said Merrick Brown, the city’s director of emergency management.

He said in response to high case counts in August, the city will begin a billboard and social media campaign this week, similar to the “Act Now” campaign launched prior to previous waves.

“For 18 months we maintained very low case counts, and I’m proud of Hatters – we met the challenge,” he said. “We’re at a point now where there are no (public health) restrictions, and we’re progressing at a very dangerous rate.”

Only 57 per cent of the age group in question in Medicine Hat has received at least one shot of vaccine, compared to 66 per cent across the province.

The similar number for Cypress County is 50.3 per cent, and the rate falls to just 25 per cent in the County of Forty Mile and 31 per cent in the M.D. of Taber.

AHS chief medical officer of health for the South zone, Vivien Suttorp, said that is concerning, current active case numbers – 495 in Medicine Hat and 85 in Cypress County as of Tuesday – only represent those that have been positively diagnosed, and AHS is still tracking contacts.

“We know there are more out there (undiagnosed),” she said. “In Medicine Hat, we’re seeing higher hospitalizations than we’ve seen at any point during the pandemic, more people in intensive care and those people are younger.”

Suttorp said three beds in ICU at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital were occupied with COVID cases Tuesday, out of a unit with just eight beds. A total of 14 cases total were at the Medicine Hat hospital – a “very dynamic” situation, said Suttorp.

The city-developed and led campaign will stress that vaccination is the safest way to avoid the worst effects of contracting the disease and limit it spreading to others.

It will suggest but not key on behavioural measures, such as maintaining social distance, hand washing and avoiding close contacts either for vaccinated or unvaccinated residents.

“I’m not up here telling you not to gather socially,” said Brown. “But there is a safe way to do it. That is to get vaccinated.”

The campaign will also stress that anyone experiencing symptoms should stay home to avoid further spread, both officials stressed.

“More restrictions is a government level decision,” said Suttorp.

She says AHS tracking shows the majority of initial spread occurs in social gatherings, but that can quickly lead to outbreaks in homes, then through family members to workplaces and daycares.

“In September we will see what happens in schools,” she said.

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