Ontario achieved a significant milestone this week, having fully vaccinating over 75% of Ontarians aged 12 and over. While notable, this level is not high enough to control the Delta variant and its severe impacts on our community and our healthcare facilities. The science is evolving quickly, and although medical experts believed just weeks ago that this degree of vaccination would allow for further lifting of restrictions, recent case surges across the country and around the world have forced us to re-evaluate our next steps. New modelling suggests that a double dose vaccination target of 90% is required to blunt the spread to manageable levels. However, we know one thing for sure, the vaccine is over 95% successful at protecting people from contracting the virus and even more successful at keeping them out of the hospital and succumbing to it.
Our government is continuing its last-mile strategy to reach eligible individuals who have yet to receive a first or second dose. These latest efforts continue to make vaccines readily and conveniently available, especially in lower-vaccinated areas and include proactively contacting individuals who have not booked their accelerated second dose appointment. Please check the Eastern Ontario Health Units website at www.eohu.ca for clinic times and locations. Vaccines are the best protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant.
With the end of August, parents and students are making final preparations for a return to school. We have worked with our medical experts to put together multiple layers of protection to make their return to school as safe as possible. School boards have been directed to establish a vaccine policy that meets or exceeds the provincial standard. Public health units are also partnering with elementary and secondary school boards, colleges, and universities to make vaccines readily available for all students born in and before 2009, including those yet to turn 12 this year.
Classroom air quality has been shown as a critical factor in protecting students and staff. Over the past year, we have invested more than $600 million to optimize air quality in schools across Ontario, including purchasing more than 70,000 standalone high-efficiency particulate air filter units—or HEPA units. We are delivering on our commitment to make school safety a top priority.
Since our election in 2018, we have committed to working with our municipalities to ensure they were prepared to meet the needs of our local taxpayers. That is why we announced that we will maintain both the structure of the Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) and the $500 million program envelope in 2022. It will provide stability for municipalities while ensuring the program continues to be responsive to changing municipal circumstances. Unlike the previous government, we will continue to announce 2022 OMPF allocations well in advance of the municipal budget year so that municipalities have appropriate time to plan. Communities across Ontario are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and need immediate assistance to ensure their municipal and community infrastructure is safe
As we continue our commitment to community safety, I encourage everyone to “get your shot,” maintain safe and social distancing engagements and, if you can check in on family, friends and neighbours to ensure their well-being.