Most B.C. COVID cases are in 20- to 40-year-olds with one or fewer doses: top doctor

VANCOUVER — A surge in COVID-19 cases in British Columbia is fuelled by those between the ages of 20 and 40 who are unvaccinated or have only had one dose, says provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The latest case count reached 402 on Thursday, a figure not seen since May, but Henry said clusters of infections were expected.

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Extensive contact tracing has identified clusters of people who have been in contact with each other, she said.

"We've taken additional measures in those local areas where we are starting to see that high increase," she said during a news conference on Thursday.

But health officials aren't seeing widespread transmission to at-risk groups such as seniors because they have a high rate of immunization, Henry said.

She said 95 per cent of those who are infected either haven't been vaccinated or have only had one shot.

"That is important for us to recognize right now. That's the message that we have for you today is that you are at risk and you spread it to the people who are closest to you."

Henry said everyone hospitalized with the illness in intensive care units in the Interior are people who haven't yet been vaccinated.

"Our ticket out of this pandemic and protecting the ones that we're close to, but also our communities, is by everybody stepping up and being immunized."

The government's "Walk-in Wednesday" promotion saw more than 16,500 people attend clinics around the province without an appointment. More than 7,600 of those went for their first vaccination, the government said in a statement.

The vaccination rate has reached 81.7 per cent for people 12 and older with a first dose, while 68.4 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Henry said pandemic modelling shows the Delta variant is more transmissible, which means immunization rates must go up, and even a small increase in vaccinations will make a difference.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said people aren't obliged to get vaccinated.

"But there are consequences if you don't and I think everyone will have to understand that," he said.

When asked if B.C. would follow Quebec's lead to issue vaccine passports, Dix said the government does intend to issue a form of domestic vaccine passports in the future.

They want to make it easier for people to access their own vaccine records, he said, because it will be increasingly necessary in many workforces to demonstrate immunization.

"Perhaps in the future if they want to leave Canada at some point to visit, whether it's Blaine or Bellingham or Belgium or Botswana, to go somewhere else in the world where they'll need to be vaccinated to travel."

There are 2,066 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with 58 people in hospital, 21 of whom are in intensive care.

There have been no new deaths, but there are five active health-care outbreaks in the province, all in long-term care homes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2021.

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