COVID-19 Community Updates

The More People Get Vaccinated, the Safer We Are

January 12, 2022

By Dr. Joel Kennedy, Co-Lead, COVID-19 Response Team, Lakeridge Health

Living through this fifth wave of COVID-19 there are many uncertainties, but one thing is clear: the more people who get vaccinated, the safer we are.

Last week, the Ontario Pharmacists Association revealed that roughly half of those looking to get a Pfizer vaccine are rejecting the Moderna shot. As a physician, caring for COVID-19 positive patients at the bedside and as co-lead of the COVID-19 response at Lakeridge Health, this is troubling.

Vaccine shopping significantly impacts our collective response in stopping the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant. And the risk of getting infected with COVID-19 is far greater than any risk associated with getting any of the vaccines.

Studies show that the minor side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are relatively similar for both Pfizer and Moderna. While the reaction to COVID-19 vaccines varies, common side effects include headaches, body chills, fatigue, and soreness in the arm or site of the shot.

We now know how critical it is to receive the COVID-19 booster. New research out of Europe shows that while two shots is no longer enough to neutralize the Omicron variant, the booster provides ample protection.

Overall, for people with at least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the rate of
hospitalization for COVID-19 is about six times lower and the rate of ICU admission is about 18 times lower.

While we also know that the Omicron variant causes a less severe illness than previous strains of COVID-19, even a fraction of the “Omicron tsunami” has enough punch to overwhelm hospital systems.

And in health-care systems across Ontario and Canada, including Lakeridge Health, we are seeing the tidal waves of inpatient COVID-19 admissions.

While getting your COVID-19 booster is an effective way to keep you and your loved ones safe during the fifth wave, ensuring we only go to the Emergency Department (ED) when we are truly in an emergency protects our valuable health-care resources for when we need it most.

So please re-consider the trip to the ED, unless you are severely ill and need treatment for imminent or potential threat to life. Some examples include chest pain, severe shortness of breath, stroke-like symptoms, or significant trauma.

If you are moderately or mildly ill, please consider urgent care options. To find urgent care options near you, visit

Lakeridge Health is working very closely with our primary care and community partners to help increase access to urgent care services. In the coming days, we will open new influenza-like illness (ILI) clinics. These specialty clinics will provide initial diagnosis and treatment for a wide spectrum of respiratory illness. The current COVID-19 Assessment Centres will also be providing ILI services for those who are unable to physically attend a centre. While you may not meet current eligibility for testing, you may still be eligible for treatment.

Please continue to watch our social media pages and our website for more information about these new ILI clinics and any service-related updates impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Previous Community Updates

January 5, 2022, Fifth Wave: We Need Your Help

By: Dr. Dan Ricciuto, Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control, Lakeridge Health

We have weathered a lot together during the last 21 months of this pandemic: Rolling lockdowns and wave upon wave of emergency measures. And now, in the fifth wave, we know “COVID Fatigue” is a reality for many of you.

We understand the anxiety and stress you feel.

The dramatic rise in the number of cases related to the new, highly contagious Omicron variant is straining our already challenged hospital system. Over the last two weeks, COVID-19 positive cases have risen exponentially.

While the Omicron variant causes less severe disease than the Delta variant, the sheer number of positive cases has fueled this dramatic rise in hospitalizations. Every day, we are seeing a growing inability for our hospitals across Ontario, and here in Durham Region, to meet the anticipated demand.

During this fifth wave, two key issues are emerging: a shortage of health-care workers and a potential lack of beds for the very sick. This shortage of health-care workers is significant: Approximately 1,000 Lakeridge Health staff are unable to work because of COVID-19 related illness/exposure. Add to that the fact that our teams are also exhausted and fatigued.

A perfect storm is brewing. The shortage of health-care workers and a rise in hospitalizations means our system may run out of hospital beds in the coming weeks.

We are calling on the community’s help once again.

We need your help to slow the transmission of the Omicron variant by getting vaccinated and following public health guidance to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Data from the Ontario Science Table shows that in people with at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the rate of hospitalization with COVID-19 is about six-times lower and the rate of ICU admission is about 18 times lower.

Also, unless you are severely ill, please do not come to the Emergency Department (ED). Choose other urgent care options, including urgent care centres, virtual options such as Durham Virtual Urgent Care Clinic and Urgent Care Durham, your primary care provider, Seniors Urgency Room and, if eligible, COVID-19 Assessment Clinics.

At the moment, unless you are severely ill, you will experience very long wait times in the ED. Choosing an alternate option will enable you and your loved ones to receive quicker access to medical care outside of the hospital.

As well, a reminder that our EDs will not routinely provide COVID-19 tests. Here is what you need to know about when and how to book a COVID-19 test at a COVID-19 Assessment Clinic (CAC):

If you are symptomatic, but your symptoms are not severe, you should stay home and isolate in most cases. You do not need a COVID-19 test and can self-isolate at home.

  • If you are symptomatic and are at a high risk of severe illness, book a COVID-19 test. Ministry of Health guidance for who can receive a COVID test is available on this link.
  • If you test positive on a rapid antigen test, assume it is accurate and self-isolate. You do not need a PCR test.
  • If you have had a close exposure, follow the public health guidelines for self-isolation and self-monitoring.

For more on COVID-19 testing, take a moment to read the provincial guidance.

If you are severely ill or your symptoms worsen, go to your nearest ED. Our EDs are open and available to care 24/7 for those who need emergent medical attention and are in a life-or-death situation.

Just like previous COVID-19 waves, we will get through this with you help. Our collective efforts will enable our hospitals to be there for you and your family when you need it most.