Vaccination surge underway as Baie Verte region has lowest rate amid rising COVID-19 cases

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Central health region chief medical officer Dr Monika Dutt said the health authority is trying to bring COVID-19 vaccines closer to residents to encourage greater adoption. (Submitted by Monika Dutt)

The Baie Verte region of Newfoundland has the lowest completed vaccination rate on the island, an issue health officials are trying to figure out as a COVID-19 cluster grows in the region.

The region had 42 cases of COVID-19 connected to it as of Wednesday afternoon.

Dr Monika Dutt, chief medical officer of the central health region, said CBC News health officials were trying to figure out why the number of two-dose vaccinations is significantly lower in the region.

Dutt said geography could be a factor, and Central Health is starting to offer more vaccination clinics in light of new cases of COVID-19 that continue to rise in the region.

Vaccination clinics are now open in Baie Verte and La Scie. Additional clinics opened Thursday at Middle Arm at Town Hall, with another opening Friday at the College of the North Atlantic campus in Baie Verte.

“We’re trying to get the vaccine as close to people as possible,” Dutt said.

Dutt said there could also be people who simply choose not to get the vaccine, while adults under 40 can be just too busy, which Dutt says is a constant trend in d other regions of the province.

Vaccination rates in Newfoundland and Labrador as of September 7 show that the Baie Verte region has the lowest on the island. (SRC)

According to data provided to CBC News by the Department of Health on September 7, only 67% of the eligible population in the Baie Verte area is fully vaccinated – the lowest rate on the island.

Overall, Newfoundland and Labrador has reached just over 79 percent of the eligible population with two doses, with 87 percent having at least one dose.

“We’re still trying to look at that, to figure out what people might know or think about the vaccine, which made them decide not to get it or not to think about it,” Dutt said.

“It’s definitely something we’re trying to understand better so that we can hopefully get more people vaccinated.”

Presumed cases

On Wednesday, Dr. Rosann Seviour, acting chief medical officer of health, confirmed the community spread of COVID-19 in the Baie Verte region, attributing the outbreak to the delta variant of the coronavirus. At least 10 cases have been identified at White Bay Retirement Living in Baie Verte.

At midnight on Wednesday, all towns and communities located along routes 410 to 419 on the Baie Verte peninsula went to alert level 3 in an attempt to slow the spread.

Also on Wednesday, Seviour announced 15 new presumptive positive cases in the central health region. Presumptive positive cases must be confirmed positive by public health officials before being added to daily COVID-19 totals.

The Department of Health on Thursday issued a notice of possible exposure for parts of central Newfoundland, with the majority of sites in Corner Brook.

Elsewhere, Vale, a mining company that currently operates the Voisey’s Bay mine site in Labrador, sent an email to employees on Wednesday indicating that there was a presumptive positive case of COVID-19 at the work site. The company said the person arrived on Monday without showing symptoms and participated in screening protocols. On Wednesday, the person’s COVID-19 test came back as presumptive positive.

Vale said the person continues to have no symptoms and is in self-isolation. A subsequent COVID-19 test followed and was sent to public health for confirmation.

The company said the risk of transmission would be low and contact tracing is ongoing.

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