Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix answered dozens of questions on Monday evening about British Columbia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of Global BC viewers have submitted questions for the first COVID-19 town hall of 2022 on topics such as vaccines, rapid tests, public health restrictions and the worrying new Omicron variant.
Here are some important points.
Upcoming vaccination mandates in British Columbia
While a vaccination mandate is already in effect at several workplaces in British Columbia, Henry said that another is in the works for some healthcare workers outside of hospitals, such as dentists, physiotherapists. and massage therapists.
“It’s one of those things that we’re always working with colleges for on how to make sure we understand the immunization status of registrants,” she said. “It’s in progress and it will happen soon.”
Henry said the process was “more complicated” than expected, but did not provide details.
At this time, she said there are no plans to require vaccination cards and a double vaccination to access spas and cosmetic services in British Columbia, as COVID-19 security plans are pending. in place in these spaces.
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Which booster dose to choose?
As the province rolls out its accelerated COVID-19 recall program, some British Columbians have asked which vaccine they should choose if given a choice.
Henry said on Monday that Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax were “really great,” but there is evidence that Spikevax has an advantage when it comes to a more sustainable response.
“You don’t need to have Pfizer if you’ve had Pfizer before. You don’t need to have Moderna if you have had Moderna, ”she explained. “Take what you have, and if you have the chance to get Moderna, go for it.”
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What’s important, Henry added, is that all eligible British Columbians receive their booster. Double-vaccinated residents who have previously been infected with COVID-19 may benefit even more from a booster than those who have not, she said.
“What we’re finding is that people who have had a vaccine and an infection and then get their booster dose are basically superimmune,” she said.
“It really gives you a really strong antibody response, but it also stimulates those memory cells again, your cell-mediated immunity.”
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Some parents have expressed concern about the safety of schools as many children have yet to be vaccinated or have only received one dose.
The vaccine’s effectiveness is between 50 and 60 percent for adults, and it’s similar for children, Henry said. To date, she added, schools have proven to be a “low risk” environment for the transmission of COVID-19, and security measures are in place to provide additional protection, including masking and staggered start times.
Parents can help keep young children safe by getting the vaccine themselves, said Henry, and keeping symptomatic children at home until they are better.
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“For anyone who is vaccinated, we are really looking at that five day period (of isolation), but for the children it can be very mild,” she said. “If it’s soft and it goes away in a day or two, then they can go back to school. “
For parents wondering when a vaccine for children under five will be available, Henry said Pfizer and Moderna have started studies and encountered challenges, so it may take some time.
“The initial two-dose vaccine that Pfizer was working on showed that it did not have as strong protection as what we see in five to 11 year olds (age group) and older children and adults.” , she explained. . “So they went back to the drawing board a bit.”
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Side Effects of COVID-19 Vaccine in British Columbia
Others asked if there had been any deaths or adverse effects related to the COVID-19 vaccine in British Columbia
To date, Henry said no deaths were linked to the vaccine in British Columbia.
“We’ve had serious adverse events after vaccination, and we call it that specifically because there are things that happen after people get vaccinated that may or may not be related to the vaccine,” she said. Explain.
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Four British Columbians had VITT (vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia), she added, and a small number had myocarditis or pericarditis after receiving a dose.
“We have had approximately 400 serious adverse events in nearly 10 million doses of vaccine administered across the province,” she said.
Every dose of vaccine given in British Columbia is recorded in a provincial registry, added Henry, which means side effects can be monitored and traced quickly and efficiently.
Dr Bonnie Henry discusses adverse effects of COVID-19 vaccine in British Columbia
Omicron has “changed the game”
It has been almost two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared, but Henry said on Monday that the Omicron variant had drastically “changed the game.”
“This wave is much sharper and steeper, but also moves faster,” she told town hall.
The province will continue to focus on hospitalization rates and the seven-day moving average rather than the number of daily cases, she added, as testing and contact tracing is overwhelmed by the spread of the virus.
The province expects an influx of rapid tests in the coming weeks, but given Omicron’s rapid transmission, it plans to deploy these tests strategically in communities and areas that need them most.
British Columbia will also maintain its booster interval at six months from the second dose, Henry said, to give the immune system enough time for a “mature response.”
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