Island Health delivers millionth COVID shot, says almost half population fully vaccinated

Island Health says it has delivered its millionth COVID shot and fully vaccinated almost 50 per cent of the population age 12 and older.

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s chief medical health officer, says the goal is to see 85 per cent of the population fully vaccinated.

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Currently, 78 per cent of the eligible population age 12 and up has had a first dose and 48 per cent has had a second.

Provincially, 79 per cent of those eligible have had a first dose and 49 per cent are fully vaccinated.

“Who would have thought seven months ago we’d be talking about administering one million COVID vaccines?” Stanwick said in news conference on Friday, where he urged young people to get vaccinated before school starts in September and they return to classroom learning.

To boost vaccine uptake, Island Health has tried measures including mobile units and a clinic in a Nanaimo mall. Stanwick said he’s gathered from national data that it’s mostly people working long hours and lower-paying jobs who can’t get in to be vaccinated.

“We are actually in the course of pivoting to identify ways of increasing easy access, and not only in terms of being available but simplifying the process, so instead of having to register and book and then show up for an appointment, we’re definitely making it easier,” said Stanwick. Only about five to eight per cent of the population is truly resistant to being vaccinated, he said.

Island Health said about 92 per cent of people age 70 and older have had at least one dose, along with the same percentage of physicians and nurse practitioners. Younger age groups have lower vaccination rates — 71 per cent of those ages 30-49 and 65 per cent of those ages 12-29 have had a first dose.

The province reported 45 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, including two new cases in Island Health for a total of 652 active cases in B.C.

Decreasing rates of COVID transmission and hospitalizations in Island Health are proof vaccination is “clearly working,” said Stanwick, noting there hasn’t been a COVID-related death on the Island since May 30. There were no new COVID deaths reported on the Island on Friday.

There are 30 active cases on the Island and one person in hospital. The Alpha variant that originated in the U.K. continues to be the lead variant on the Island, while the Delta variant taking hold in other areas of the country is trailing here, said Stanwick.

Stanwick said planning for the next stage of the pandemic is ongoing. Health officials are looking at scenarios ranging from COVID-19 dying off as SARS did, the need to provide more rounds of immunization for those who didn’t get a shot or people with low immunity, and the potential that the virus will keep changing each year, like influenza, so annual shots will be needed to boost immunity.

The worst-case scenario would be the need for another mass vaccination of the population if the virus changes dramatically.

“Probably somewhere in between the two extremes is what we’ll end up with,” said Stanwick.

Anyone age 12 and older can still register for a COVID-19 vaccine. Those who have not had a first shot are advised to register, but can also just show up at an immunization clinic.

To register, go to gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated or call 1-833-838-2323.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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