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Relying on BC Vaccine Card to boost gatherings to 100% capacity starting Oct 25

Tuesday October 19, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated Nov 14, 2021]

Commentary by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends

A new public health order –– being released this week, and coming into effect on October 25 — will allow up to 100 percent capacity at indoor organized gatherings.

As announced today by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry in her weekly COVID briefing, held with Health Minister Adrian Dix, the idea is to help support people’s overall well-being through increased social interactions and activity of businesses who employ people and support families.

Counter-intuitive to waning vaccine protection:

However, in so doing at this time, Dr Henry is relying heavily on integrity of the BC Vaccine Card which is attainable after having received two doses of COVID vaccine. But over time that ‘proof’ will be less assured, given that level of immunity wanes as time passes after vaccination, and will vary depending on each person’s dosage interval and their own level of immune response.

In other countries around the world — most notably in the news in the United Kingdom, but also weeks ago in Israel — the effectiveness of the vaccines diminishes over time; booster shots have already been widely administered to the general population in those countries (though not always with the same degree of uptake as the first and second doses as people grow weary of the pandemic and all that it requires of people’s goodwill, patience, and cooperation).

COVID cases in schools:

covid, schools, sd62
Potential COVID Exposures in Schools, in SD62 as at 10 am October 19, 2021. [Island Health] / Note: on this list Brookes Westshore is a private school (not within SD62 but is in the west shore, in Colwood.

Today Dr Henry noted there is a level of fully-vaccinated people ending up in hospital with COVID-19. She declared that cases among school children are decreasing, but the numbers are still robust enough to produce a long list of ‘potential exposures’ in schools as reported by BC’s health authorities (presently at six schools in the west shore and Sooke).

According to Dr Henry the cases seen in school-age children are acquired in the community more so than in schools; but she has also said many times that infection rates in school reflect rates of transmission in the communities. There is no artificial barrier at the doors of the school, even if classroom situations are officially controlled (e.g. wearing masks while sitting at desks).

Puzzling approach:

So it remains a bit puzzling as to Dr Henry’s enthusiasm and confidence that wearing masks and people’s current level of (naturally waning) immunity are enough to warrant a relaxation of crowd-numbers as we head into the winter respiratory season (which now packs in COVID together with influenza, para-influenza, and other types of respiratory infections).

BC’s top doctor often says she is trying to achieve a balance of all things impacted by the COVID pandemic, which is of course no small feat. But to tip sympathy toward people’s need to socialize and fully operate their businesses while the increasing spread of the highly-transmissible Delta variant is happening (including fully-vaccinated people ending up in hospital with COVID infections) seems a bit too gleeful.

This seems to be yet another period or phase within the ongoing pandemic where hope and enthusiasm are deemed powerful enough against the unrelenting killer virus. This deep into the pandemic (now 20 months), it seems simply silly to take the risk, given all that public health and the people of BC have learned and observed about the virus.

Also into flu season:

So while at the same time opening up social interactions, BC will also be freely administering vaccines for influenza this year. A strong flu comeback is expected in BC, as last year there was little to no flu infection during the physically-distant first waves of COVID as directed by public health.

adrian dix
Health Minister Adrian Dix, Oct 19, 2021.

After a ‘year off’ from exposure to the influenza virus, people may not have any natural immunity to the strains of the virus that will have evolved since 2019.

Minister Dix and Dr Henry emphasize that the flu vaccine is free. It will be widely available at public health clinics, pharmacies and doctor’s offices.

Case counts are robust:

Today another 560 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in BC (61 of those in Island Health). There are 4,913 active cases of COVID-19 across the province (516 in Island Health).

While it’s been easy to become numb to the numbers, standing back from it for a moment… that’s how many people are sick with a serious illness, are interrupted in terms of work or school, whose families are impacted, and who will possibly have longer-term health impacts to deal with. This pandemic is very much not over.

Vaccination levels:

As of today, 83.5% of people age 12+ in BC have received their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, and are thereby considered to be fully vaccinated. The rate of first-dose is not far behind, at 89.2%.

The lowest levels of vaccination in the Northern Health region, Minister Dix reported again today.