(Black Press file photo)

(Black Press file photo)

Interior Health reports COVID-19 impact declining

Immunization program credited for pandemic reversal

The vaccination target set by Interior Health (IH) for 80 per cent of the health authority population to get shots in arms is nearing a reality.

The IH board members learned at their June 23, meeting the vaccination rate has reached the 70 per cent level with efforts ongoing to widen the opportunity for health authority residents to get shots in arms.

Dr. Sue Pollock, interim IH chief medical health officer, said since the vaccine started being delivered to IH residents on Dec. 22, 2020, some 429,453 first doses and 207,709-second doses have been done.

Pollock said immunization efforts have coincided with a decline in COVID-19 exposure rates, down from a seven-day average pandemic highpoint of 1,133 cases per day to the current 25.

The hospitalization rates for COVID treatment have dropped from 50 people in February to now just nine patients, while the number of deaths, since the start of the pandemic, attributed to COVID is 155.

“The decline in numbers speaks to the impact of the immunization programs and helps us move forward with the public health next steps in the restart plan,” said Pollock.

She said for community immunity to become a closer reality and for further reduction or elimination of public health measures, those statistical numbers must continue to decline.

“We still need to require mask-wearing be mandatory in public indoor spaces, physical distancing public health measures be emphasized, continue to ask people to stay home if they are sick, and to seek a test if they have COVID symptoms,” Pollock said.

Karen Bloemink, IH vice-president pandemic response and surgical strategy, told the health board methods of delivering more vaccine shots continue to evolve, particularly now with 12-18 year-olds being encouraged to get vaccinated before school resumes in September.

“There has been good uptake with the provincial vaccine registration system in place but we need to expand opportunities to get a first or second dose if we are going to reach that 80 per cent target,” Bloemink said.

“We continue to travel to all corners of Interior Health to offer opportunities for easy access to get vaccinated. There is good news on the horizon but we need to continue to be diligent around public health measures.”

While mixing first and second doses with different vaccines have been a matter of public debate in recent weeks, Pollock said in B.C. all three vaccine options – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – continue to be available and the best health research to date indicates getting two shots from different vaccines as being effective and safe.

Asked by board member Allan Louis what is the maximum time lapse between first and second doses, Pollock responded current health care direction is 16 weeks, with B.C. having set an arbitrary mark of eight weeks to speed up the vaccination process, while the minimum timeline is 21 or 28 days, depending on the vaccine brand.

Pollock said the initial second dose timeline was moved back to ensure that more people were able to get that first dose level protection more quickly without reducing the ultimate effectiveness of that second dose.

READ MORE: Dr. Bonnie Henry visits Interior Health, says thank you to frontline workers

READ MORE: B.C. deletes tweet asking people to ‘snitch’ on unvaccinated friends, family

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