WINDSOR, ONT. -- Vaccine uptake has been very high in Windsor-Essex, with nearly 75 per cent of the eligible population at least single-dosed.

But some demographics, including the N9A downtown Windsor postal code and the 12 to 17 age band continue to lag behind — a gap local officials are eager to close in short order.

“Now as we get closer to full vaccination rates across the community, that gap is getting wider,” says downtown Windsor councillor Rino Bortolin.

Fifty-one per cent of residents in the N9A postal code have received a single dose of the vaccine.

There are efforts to bring more vaccines into the core to meet the community where it lives.

A pop-up clinic hosted by Dr. Magbule Doko is being held at an empty parking lot at the corner of Ouellette Avenue and Elliott Street from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 10.

And next week, the city is planning a series of pop-up clinics in partnership with Essex-Windsor EMS.

Downtown businesses are posting flyers advertising Saturday’s pop-up clinic and members of Lisa Gretzky’s office are doing door-to-door flyer drops in the neighbourhood.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily access and availability, as much as it is the engagement, and the trust and the education of those residents,” Bortolin says, though he applauds the efforts to organize pop-up clinics.

The councillor says the downtown vaccine uptake could be low because traditionally, trust for authority in these neighbourhoods is also low.

He believes that can be helped along by engagement with community groups and churches who can have the larger conversation with hesitant members of society about the reasons to get vaccinated.

“The engagement has to happen at that level and you need to start building trust and then bringing people out from there,” says Bortolin. “That kind of conversation can’t stop, it has to start now and it has to go for the long haul.”

That neighbourhood isn’t the lone group with slow vaccine uptake.

Less than 50 per cent of 12-17 year olds have so far had their first jab.

Dr. Wassim Saad of Windsor Regional Hospital believes the hesitancy likely stems from a lack of severe infection in that age band, but says continued slow uptake can have implications on all of society. 

“This is safe, it’s effective, and it’s not just to protect them, but it’s actually to keep everything open and running, and protect them from transmitting it to other family members who could be susceptible to severe infection,” says Dr. Saad.

Ontario’s new medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, says there’s another reason to get this age group vaccinated faster. He points out the summer may have just started for many area youth, but the start of school in the fall will come quickly.

“The clock is ticking, we only have eight to nine weeks before schools, universities and colleges reopen. And we want those areas of our community open as safely as possible,” Dr. Moore says.