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High vaccine rates seen as key to low case numbers in area schools

High vaccination rates are a contributing factor to the lower number of COVID-19 cases found in area schools
20210910 UGDSB admin building RV
Upper Grand District School Board.

High vaccine rates are driving down instances of community transmission, one factor that is proving beneficial in the fight against COVID-19 in Guelph’s schools.

As of Monday morning, the Wellington District Catholic School Board was reporting zero cases in schools, the Upper Grand District School Board was reporting three cases at Primrose Elementary school, the University of Guelph was reporting a single case found on Oct. 7, the only reported case in the last 14 days, and the MonAvenir Catholic School Board reported zero active cases in the region.

“I think it largely shows the effect of vaccination requirements,” said Scott Weese professor at the Ontario Veterinary College and director at the Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses at the University of Guelph. “ As vaccination rates continue to go up, there’s less community transmission. That drives infection in schools since the infection has to start somewhere. If there’s less chance of someone bringing it into a school, we have less risk of subsequent transmission.”

Weese is also a member of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table.

In addition to the high rate of vaccination in Guelph and Wellington County, Weese said the continued use of public health measures and an adequately slow re-opening to keep things from spiking have worked in combination to stave off the spread.

Data from Wellington Dufferin Guelph Public Health on the current vaccine rates shows that as of Monday, 84.3 per cent of eligible residents are fully vaccinated and 87.7 per cent are partially vaccinated.

The City of Guelph has the highest vaccination rate in the region, with 91.3 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated and 89.8 per cent of the eligible population had received at least a single dose.

When broken down by schools, the data shows the vaccination rate in secondary schools in the region is 79.7 per cent fully vaccinated and 83.9 per cent of the student population has received at least one dose.

“Low cases in schools can be attributed to several likely factors. The COVID-19 situation in schools is reflective of the overall rates of the virus within our region,” said  Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer of health for WDG Public Health. “Because such a high percentage of residents of the region has chosen to be vaccinated – including teachers, staff and eligible students – we are seeing lower rates within the school.”

He added: “We can also attribute lower rates in schools to the excellent work by our schools and school boards in implementing and adhering to COVID-19 safety measures that reduce the chances of school spread.”

When it comes to universities, Weese said vaccination rates are very high on campus, with few exemptions being granted. 

“Universities tended to see some early cases because of the late onset of vaccine requirements, which lead to some partially vaccinated students at the start,” he said. “However, by now, almost all students in residence here are vaccinated, and the overall campus vaccination rate is very high. There’s also been limited in-person teaching during this time, helping with the transition.”

The deadline Friday for vaccination status reporting at the U of G showed 97 per cent of those who reported their status were fully vaccinated.

“We’ve seen more cases in some regions with lower vaccination rates, which supports the likely role of vaccination. For the 12+ group, vaccination of students is also key, and we have good vaccination now,” said Weese. “Risk was higher at the start of the school year (and cases were more common), in part probably because of the lag in vaccination requirements for external activities.”

Weese added with vaccine requirements for things like sports, there was more vaccine uptake, and now that that the provincial requirements have come in, vaccination rates continue to slowly climb.

Provincially, the number of COVID-19 found in schools increased to 3,692 on Monday, however, 2,437 of those cases were reported over 14 days ago.

Of the 4,844 schools in Ontario, 638 are currently reporting at least one COVID-19 case and two schools are currently closed


Daniel Caudle

About the Author: Daniel Caudle

Daniel Caudle is a journalist who covers Guelph and area
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