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Shifting more vaccines to hot spots will help reduce hospitalizations, deaths: Ontario science table

Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table says redirecting more vaccines to hot spots in the province will help to reduce case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.

A report released by the group on Friday said a “hot spot-accelerated vaccination strategy” would consist of allocating 50 per cent of vaccines to the top 74 hot spots in the province, and allocating the remaining 50 per cent equally across the entire province.

The report said that early analysis of the province’s vaccination rollout revealed that residents of higher-risk neighbourhoods, which also have more essential workers, were in fact less likely to get vaccinated.

Some additional risk factors highlighted by the group include a lack of paid sick leave, multigenerational households, and high-density housing.

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By shifting more vaccines to hot spots and vaccinating as many people as possible in those areas aged 16 and older, the report said that benefits will be seen in all age groups, even in non-hot spot zones.

The advisory group said despite older age groups being vaccinated at a slower pace in non-hot spot areas, transmission will be reduced, therefore indirectly protecting those residents as well.

The report included a projection of the impact of Ontario’s initial mass vaccination strategy, which was age-based and on a per-capita basis, and a “hot spot-accelerated strategy.” The model projected impacts between April 9 and June 7 and included three million doses administered over 30 days.

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The hot spot strategy resulted in a 14-per cent decrease in hospitalizations, 14-per cent decrease in intensive care admissions, and 11-per cent drop in deaths in those aged 16 and older.

Earlier this month, Ontario updated its vaccination strategy to include vaccinating those aged 18 and older in 114 hot spots, beginning with those in Toronto and Peel Region; the new plan included distributing 25 per cent of vaccines to 114 hot spots, with 75 per cent being distributed equally throughout the province.

The report stated that means 47.5 per cent of vaccines would be allocated to 30 per cent of the province’s population. The “hot spot-accelerated” strategy, however, would see 60 per cent of the province’s next three million doses allocated to 20 per cent of the population.

A shift to prioritizing vaccinating hot spots would require “meaningful community engagement,” the group added.

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