The West Boundary has the lowest COVID-vaccination rate in the Interior Health Authority (IH), according to IH medical health officer Dr. Karin Goodison.
Goodison is a trained physician and population health specialist who tracks and advises on public health policy across the Kootenay Boundary and North Okanagan. She addressed vaccination-rates in the West Boundary on Wednesday, Feb. 16, when she spoke to The Grand Forks Gazette about the latest regional trends in the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of this week, 71 per cent of eligible people over the age of 12 have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the Kettle Valley local health area (LHA), which includes Greenwood, Midway, Rock Creek, Beaverdell and Big White.
“That is the lowest in the entire health authority region,” Goodison said, adding that 21 per cent of kids five to 11 have had their first shot.
Along with other factors, IH uses the full vaccination rate among people over 12 to predict areas where people are more likely to be hospitalized with serious complications of COVID-19, Goodison explained.
Meanwhile, 79 per cent of people over 12 were twice vaccinated in the neighbouring Grand Forks LHA, where Goodison said 31 per cent of children ages five to 11 have had one dose. By contrast, just over 90 per cent of all B.C. adults have had two shots, the Government of B.C. reported Tuesday, Feb. 15.
Goodison gave her interview amid clamouring calls nationally and regionally to end COVID-19 restrictions altogether. Noting that COVID restrictions in B.C. are decided by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Goodison pointed out that the province and IH are still riding the fifth wave of the pandemic.
Roughly two months after the onset of the Omicron variant, case counts and infection-rates are dropping provincially. Rising immunization rates are helping to stem the virus’s spread, but Goodison said she would like to see COVID restrictions come away gradually, especially while restrictions remain the best defence in parts of the health authority with lower vaccine coverage.
“Even though we’re past the peak and we’re on the way down, we’re not out of it. So, it’s very reasonable that we keep some restrictions in place as we continue to observe that downward trend in case rates.”
A phased, “lift and observe” approach would best allow health specialists to gauge what happens as restrictions drop off. That way, Henry could make adjustments if case rates were to rebound, Goodison said.
With restrictions still calling for precautions like wearing face masks, “There is still a risk that people who aren’t immunized can develop much more severe illness” when infected by Omicron.
Restrictions and vaccination are about protecting hospitals, especially in IH where smaller hospitals can be overwhelmed by COVID much quicker than in metropolitan areas on the coast.
More fundamentally, Goodison said the measures “are about protecting lives.”
At 73 per cent, the Kettle Valley and Enderby LHAs have IH’s lowest double-vaccination rate among people over 18 as of Tuesday, Feb. 15, according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control.