Huron Heat see little impact from vaccination requirement: Taylor
BY DENNY SCOTT
Due to a late change in policy, the Huron Heat girls hockey program won’t likely see much of an impact from the recent Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) announcement that vaccines will be necessary for anyone over the age of 11 entering recreational facilities.
Earlier this month, HPPH, alongside other local health units, announced more stringent requirements for entry. The groups said that anyone 12 or over would need to be vaccinated and provide proof of such before they could enter the facilities. These requirements went further than the provincial government’s, which decreed vaccines would be necessary for anyone over the age of 17 to enter recreational facilities.
President of Huron Heat Shane Taylor said there were changes made by the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA) in the month leading up to the decision, but that, by the time it was announced, the OWHA had already put the same restriction in place.
“Originally, that’s what [the OWHA] came out with,” he said in an interview with The Citizen. “The OWHA said that 12-17 year olds had to be vaccinated in September, but then, two weeks later, reversed.”
After that, likely to bring itself in line with the Ontario Minor Hockey Association (OMHA) which had held all players over the age of 11 needed to be vaccinated, the OWHA reversed its decision again, announcing on Oct. 4 that all age-eligible Huron Heat players needed to be double-vaccinated by Oct. 17 to be considered fully-vaccinated by Oct. 31.
Taylor said the HPPH announcement had little impact because most players had already been pursuing vaccination or were already vaccinated because of the OWHA ruling. Even the OWHA ruling had little impact, he said, aside from the fact that some players may miss a game or two if they didn’t get their first shot in time.
“We won’t really know until later in the season, but I don’t think it will have much of an impact,” he said. “Some people went to get their first shot when the announcement was made, so there may be a few missed games, but besides that I don’t think it will cause much of a change.”
Players have to upload their proof of vaccination to the Huron Heat website, he said, adding he was happy to have the organization back on the ice and hopes this year’s season will go past Dec. 31, which is when the season ended last year due to COVID-19.
Medical Officer of Health for Huron and Perth Dr. Miriam Klassen, during a teleconference last week, said there had been some pushback on the announcement, but no more than from other announcements.
“I would say, all through the pandemic, we hear from people who are pleased with updated advice and directions and we hear from people… who are not pleased,” she said. “We’ve heard from both sides [on this issue]. Some say it’s long overdue, and some are not pleased.
“When we’re making these decisions, the team considers evidence to make the best decision we can,” she said. “We balance it against… other needs.”
She said sports are good for children’s mental and physical health, but an outbreak will interrupt sports, so a high vaccination rate is the best way to facilitate safe participation.
Klassen did say that she is aware of outbreaks that have occurred in Huron and Perth linked to hockey and soccer games, as well as issues in other areas like an outbreak at a dance studio and one tied to a basketball team.
“The nature of athletic activities is that it leads to spreading,” she said.