Shomporko Online News Desk: Residents of a small Eastern Ontario enclave have an impressive record: they have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in the province.
As of July 17, more than 76 percent of residents in the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit had gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. According to data from Public Health Ontario, another 58.6% were fully inoculated against the disease on that day.
However, sitting at the bottom of Ontario’s map, we can find the region with quite the opposite record. Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, where just 62.3 per cent of residents have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounts for the lowest vaccination rate in the province. That’s the lowest rate in Ontario.
So what’s the secret to vaccine success? According to experts, everything plays a role including things like where you live, how old you are, and what you’re reading.
There are spots in Calgary and Edmonton where at least 60 per cent of residents are fully immunized against COVID-19. But when confronted with the rural locations in Alberta, that number quickly dwindles.
In some rural areas of the province, just 30 percent of residents — or fewer — have been fully vaccinated.
According to experts, this is in part because we’re more likely to do something if we see people around us doing it.
“If there’s a lot of people that you associate with, that you’re socially involved with, and they’re getting vaccinated, that actually increases the likelihood you will get vaccinated,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of Queen’s University’s infectious diseases division.
“One of the things that we’ve seen within a sort of urban environment is that there’s a lot of social contexts there to say, ‘Everybody around me is getting immunized. I’m going to get immunized, too.’”
On top of that, Evans said there’s an “argument to be made” that those living in dense, downtown centers might be more acutely aware of the benefits a vaccine can offer.
“They’re thinking and feeling, ‘Boy, I really need the benefits of vaccination.’ And if you’re in a rural environment, sometimes your perception is, well, you’re kind of socially distanced from everyone. And maybe it isn’t important,” Evans said.
“Then you look and talk to neighbors who live in the same area and maybe they’re coming to the same conclusion. So that’s a social process that’s going on.”
While vaccine uptake appears to trend higher in downtown cores, rural areas might actually feel the impact of vaccine hesitation more quickly, one expert warned.
“It’s possible to have a localized flare-up. Dr. Omar Khan, a professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Toronto, stated, “So that’s really the problem going forward.”
“Because if our urban regions are adequately protected, but our rural areas are not, the issue is that if there is an increase in cases (in rural areas), will their local health unit be able to handle the extra instances? Will individuals have to be moved to other locations?”