February 9 Board of Health Summary

Written by Comms Team, February 11, 2022

One-Time Funding for Emergency Overdose Prevention Site

Opioid-related deaths have increased annually in Peterborough since 2016, with local rates nearly double the provincial average since 2018. In 2021, there were on average four deaths every month in the Peterborough area. In the absence of a dedicated emergency response designed to prevent further drug-related fatalities, it is anticipated that deaths will continue to rise throughout 2022. While significant additional work will be required to prevent and treat opioid use in the region, the most urgent present need is the provision of harm reduction services through the provision of a safe consumption site that could allow individuals using their own drugs on site to have a potential overdose reversed through administration of the medicine naloxone and other supports. This intervention has the potential for a significant impact in saving lives from overdose death, and decreasing the burden of the overdose crisis on ambulance services and the health system more broadly.

The Board of Health unanimously approved a motion that Peterborough Public Health lead a collaborative emergency Overdose Prevention Site on an interim basis beginning in March 2022. The Board also authorized the use of up to a maximum of $250,000 in reserve funding to implement this response (if alternative sources of revenue are not secured by the anticipated start date). This response will be suspended if it’s no longer required, as determined by the receipt of provincial funding for a Consumption Treatment Services site. In addition, the board passed a resolution committing to working with partners towards co-location and wraparound services to help to address the opioids overdose crisis in our community.

Measures to Increase Third Dose Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccine

There is increasing evidence that immunity can wane over time and that a third, or booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine provides greater protection against severe outcomes due to COVID-19. Current evidence from Ontario has demonstrated increased vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic Omicron infection from no protection greater than 180 days after two doses, to 61% after a third dose. This has led to all levels of government recommending a third, or booster dose to help restore and maintain protection against severe illness, complication or death due to COVID-19. In Ontario, residents aged 18 and over are eligible to receive a third, or booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

On January 31, the province of Ontario initiated steps to reopen businesses and community settings, which may increase community transmission of the Omicron variant and increase risk of hospitalization among those who are inadequately immunized.

In Peterborough and across the province, administration rates of third doses of COVID-19 vaccine have slowed substantially and as of February 3, 2022, provincial coverage sits at 54.2%. During the second last week of December, 2021, in Ontario, more than a million doses were administered however this had decreased to 335,753 doses during the fourth week of January 2022. Last week, there was only a 2.1% increase in third vaccination rates from the previous week. Requiring a third dose for a valid proof of vaccination to access non-essential services is one of the most important policy levers that has been proven to work and should be pursued to continue to improve vaccine uptake and protect our communities. The Board of Health approved a motion requesting in writing that the Provincial Government and the Ministry of Health support strategies to increase uptake of third doses and include a third dose as a requirement for valid Proof of Vaccination; with copies to local MPPs, the Association of Local Public Health Agencies and Ontario Boards of Health.

COVID-19 Update

Dr. Piggott noted local case counts are significantly under-reported due to provincial changes in PCR testing criteria that limit who is eligible for testing. There is much higher COVID-19 transmission over the last two months than at any other point in the pandemic. While local case incidence rate trended lower than the provincial rate during earlier waves in the pandemic, during Omicron local transmission levels were more on par with the rest of the province. This, combined with the larger proportion of seniors in the Peterborough area, explains why the number of local deaths accelerated through the Omicron surge. While hospitalizations have decreased somewhat locally, the virus has substantially impacted staffing levels intensifying the burden of COVID-19 on Peterborough Regional Health Centre (PRHC). The recently approved antiviral treatment Paxlovid is now available to Peterborough and area residents. Paxlovid is an oral COVID-19 treatment that can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. The treatment is being made accessible locally courtesy of a partnership between PRHC and Lakeridge Health.

Next meeting:

The Board of Health will meet next on Wednesday, March 9, 2022, 5:30 p.m., either as an electronic meeting, or in person at PPH offices, if permissible.