Comment: Summer a time for hope and healing, vaccines key to moving beyond pandemic

A commentary by B.C.'s provincial health officer.

With more than three million people in B.C. protected from COVID-19 with their first dose of vaccine, B.C. is moving ahead to a safer, more hopeful time.

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The sacrifices each of us have made to keep one another safe, combined with life-saving vaccines, continue to be our most powerful tool to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities, and to move beyond this pandemic.

I believe this will be a summer of healing and hope for all of us. We will finally be able to do more of the things we love, like gathering with friends, celebrating an important life occasion with family, and even hugging a loved one.

Like so many people, I will be greeting this summer with joy and also with caution.

COVID-19 is still with us. Our vaccines are safe and highly effective, but like all vaccines, they do not provide 100 per cent protection for everybody all the time.

Here in B.C., and around the world, even in places where large numbers of people have been vaccinated, the virus continues to spread in communities, albeit at a much lower level. We will still see new cases and outbreaks, and sadly some people will still become seriously ill.

I, along with my public health colleagues, are watching the new variants of concern closely. While this fall may feel like a long way away, we want to put ourselves in the best and safest place we can as we go into our next respiratory infection season.

That means keeping virus transmission as low as possible and protecting more and more of us with vaccines.

We are fortunate to have a clear path for protecting ourselves and our communities. There are three important things each one of us must do to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us.

The first thing every person in B.C. who is 12 years old and above can do is register for your vaccine, through the provincial Get Vaccinated system.

Registering is easy, and will make sure our immunization teams can quickly contact you when it is your turn for your second dose of vaccine.

Register online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated or call toll free 1-833-838-2323.

If you have someone in your life who hasn’t registered, you can help make all of us safer by helping them register today and book to get their vaccine as soon as they can.

The second thing everyone can do is get fully vaccinated, with two doses of vaccine.

Getting as many people as possible their first dose of vaccine has helped us to dramatically slow the spread in our communities and enabled us to begin to lift restrictions safely.

A second dose of vaccine will make sure you and those around you get the maximum COVID-19 protection for the maximum amount of time. This will be vital for us to continue to reduce transmission as we head into the fall.

The third thing everyone can do is continue to use the layers of protection that we all know well, like washing our hands, staying home when we are sick and getting tested if we have symptoms of COVID-19.

As a province and as individuals, these past 16 months have challenged and changed us in ways we never could have imagined.

Through it all, the ability of British Columbians to work together to keep one another safe has been a source of inspiration and hope.

We can’t stop now. The things we do this summer matter for all of us.

Please continue to do what you can to stay safe and protected, by getting registered, getting fully vaccinated with both doses of vaccine, using all our layers of protection.

And continuing to support each other with compassion and kindness.

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