Eastern Townships, lagging in vaccination, has third-worst infection rate in Canada
The open pit of the now closed Jeffrey mine is seen Wednesday, August 10, 2016 in Val-des-Sources, formerly known as Asbestos, Que. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
MONTREAL -- The Eastern Townships, which lags in vaccination rates, continues to post the highest COVID-19 rates by far in southern Quebec -- and in fact, the third-worst rates in Canada.
The situation is especially alarming around the town of Val-des-Sources, formerly known as Asbestos, which has the lowest vaccination rate in the region at only 71.7 per cent.
The Eastern Townships' overall average over the last week has been 206 cases per 100,000 people, according to daily charts maintained by an Ontario statistician.
But as Quebec has spiralled upwards quickly in the last week, so has the Eastern Townships. As of Monday, the region had 282 active cases for every 100,000 people, or almost three infected people out of every 1,000 people.
In the national chart, it was behind only a public health district in Miramichi, New Brunswick, in the number-two spot, and Nunavik, Quebec, which tops the national chart with a weekly average of 631 cases per 100,000.
Nunavik's numbers have been extremely high for months, and while some of the reasons for its outbreak have been examined, the crisis in the Eastern Townships, or Estrie, as it's called in French, has flown more under the radar.
According to Eastern Townships public health authorities, the virus is mostly circulating in schools.
"The major outbreaks in Estrie come mainly from elementary schools in the region," they told CTV News in a statement Monday.
In the last week, 34 per cent of cases have been among children aged five to 11, they said. While that group has begun vaccination, there will be a lag time before it's protective.
DES SOURCES REGION HAS OVER 1 INFECTION PER 100 PEOPLE
But vaccination rates among adults are well below Quebec's average in several of the subregions within the Eastern Townships, including around Val-des-Sources.
In Quebec as a whole, 81 per cent of eligible people over age five have been vaccinated.
Val-des-Sources is part of the Asbestos or Des Sources subdistrict. The vaccination rate there, just below 72 per cent of the eligible population, is the lowest in all of the Eastern Townships. The percentage of local people who have gotten at least a first dose, 74.6 per cent, isn't much higher.
The Des Sources subdistrict also has the province's highest rate of COVID-19 as of Monday, exceeding even Nunavik's average, with 1,097 active cases per 100,000 people, according to provincial data.
Other parts of the Eastern Townships also show low vaccination rates, with only a single subdistrict, Memphrémagog, hitting 80 per cent.
In particular, the area of Haut-St-François has a vax rate of 73 per cent, and Granit falls just below 75 per cent.
Local health authorities didn't respond to a question about whether they believe the low vaccination rate is a leading factor in the high infection rates, speaking only about schools.
On the national list, Montreal and Laval were tied at 11th and 12th, both with a weekly average of 103.7 cases per 100,000. Both regions have risen significantly in the last week, with Montreal now nearly at a rate of 150 cases per 100,000 and Laval above 160.