Greater Victoria doctors concerned about COVID-vaccine hesitancy, especially amid the spread of a new variant on the Island, have ramped up their efforts to encourage immunization by posting information videos to YouTube and Facebook.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there and as a consequence, vaccine hesitancy is a real concern in spite of the good progress with the vaccine rollout,” said Dr. Aaron Childs, a family physician with the Victoria Division of Family Practice, which is behind the videos.
With the highly transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant present on the Island, it is critically important for everyone to get both their first and second doses as soon as possible, Childs said. “Full vaccination will maximize protection against all strains and is our ticket to getting back to normal without setbacks.”
Between Jan. 3 and May 23, about 85 per cent of COVID cases in B.C. were variants of concern, with 60 per cent in the Island Health region.
The Delta B.1.617.2 variant remains relatively uncommon in B.C., with about 500 cases here, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Guftason said. The most common variant of concern in B.C. remains the one first detected in the U.K.
A U.K. government report said last month that Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were 33 per cent effective against symptomatic disease caused by the Delta variant three weeks after the first dose, and rose above 80 per cent after two doses.
Guftason said people concerned about rare vaccine-induced blood clots related to AstraZeneca can choose a messenger RNA vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna for their second shot.
There are no well-identified risk factors for the rare side effect, said Guftason.
Family physician Dr. Benjamin How of the Victoria Division of Family Practice said because the new vaccines were developed so quickly, “some people wonder if all the necessary steps were taken to test them.”
How said that while the process was accelerated by unprecedented funding, the clinical trials and safety reviews “actually took about the same amount of time as for other vaccines.”
Family physician Dr. Kathy Dabrus said for those on the fence, “there is no benefit in waiting.”
The COVID virus will be around for years and waiting to be vaccinated only increases a person’s risk of exposure, said Dabrus.
“The risks of the virus are significant and far outweigh the possibility of serious side-effects from any COVID vaccine. Your risk of dying from COVID is greatly reduced after the vaccination and your risk of transmission goes down 90 per cent.”
Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau noted in question period in the B.C. legislature on Tuesday that the seven-day rolling average of cases for the Delta variant doubled from 2,400 on May 28 to 5,000 on June 7 in the United Kingdom, and the variant is on the verge of taking hold in the Peel region of Ontario.
With Canada-wide travel potentially on the horizon, Furstenau asked B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix how the government is managing the risk that the Delta variant poses to British Columbians with only one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Dix said vaccinations continue to increase and the province’s plan is to ease restrictions slowly, with the next phase starting June 15 at the earliest..
Ten new people in Island Health were reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday from a total 165 new cases in the province.
Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reported 2,051 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday; 203 are in hospital, including 57 in critical or intensive care. No new COVID-19 related deaths were reported, leaving the total at 1,722.
Henry and Dix reported that 74 per cent of all B.C. adults have received their first vaccine dose.
The province has extended a state of emergency through the end of day on June 22 in order to manage the pandemic.