COVID complacency concerning – Strang: Vaccine eligibility expands to youth this fall

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – “I am concerned that over the past few months we have collectively become too complacent and unconcerned about COVID. Certainly, we’re not where we were in 2020 or in 2021 or last spring; but COVID is still a significant issue that requires our collective attention and action,” Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, told the media during on online press conference on Aug. 26.

That being said, no mandated measures have been brought forward, although Strang said public health continues to recommend mask-wearing in crowded indoor public places and encourages all to get their COVID vaccinations and boosters.

On that point, the province announced in a news release Aug. 26 that, “Starting the week of September 6, children aged five to 11 will be eligible for a first COVID-19 booster vaccine… Starting the week of September 19, another dose of COVID-19 vaccine will be available to people aged 12 and older, regardless of the number of booster doses they have previously received.”

During the press conference, Strang also encouraged adults to wait to get their second booster until the fall. He explained people should not get a booster until 168 days since their last vaccine. People who have tested positive for COVID should also wait 168 days from their infection before receiving their next dose of COVID-19 vaccine.

As children head back to school, with no mask mandate in place, Strang said public health continues to recommend that "students wear a mask in school wherever possible. Certainly, when they’re in larger numbers; in a classroom, on a bus, in assemblies, etc. But also, it is very important that parents understand, and students understand, the importance of, if they’re ill, especially with new cold or flu-like symptoms, that they need to stay home.

“Fundamentally, if parents are concerned, one of the things that certainly is very important, especially protecting against severe disease, is getting up to date on vaccines. I am concerned that roughly only half of the five to 11-year-olds have had two doses of vaccine. That’s a choice that parents need to make. To me that would be the starting point – are you getting your child up to date on vaccines and then, when they’re illegible for their booster, getting the booster,” Strang said.

One reason the public may have become complacent concerning COVID is the lack of data available on COVID cases in the province. The weekly update to the Nova Scotia dashboard online lists the number of PCR positive test results only. No numbers for positive self-tests are released.

The Journal asked Strang if the province knew the percentage of people reporting their positive home test results as they are requested to do on the Nova Scotia COVID-19 webpage. “No we don’t,” he responded. “That’s very difficult because there’d be no way to figure out how many people are actually testing positive. But we continue to stress and do whatever we can to communicate to Nova Scotians…the importance of them to report any positive results and how they go about doing that.”

The Journal also asked why the province wasn’t publicly releasing the data they had received on the number of positive home test results. Strang said, “We stopped doing that because there were a lot of flaws in the data…I’ve had conversations as recently as yesterday with the epidemiologists’ team about how we could get somewhat reliable information from the rapid test results. There’s no point in putting out information that is impossible to interpret. We’re looking at ways that we can put at least reasonably reliable information on the rapid test results. Once we get there, then we’ll look at that and give that more account when we’re looking at our epidemiology and also look if it makes sense, that there’s enough validity to those numbers, we would start to report those publicly.”

People who obtain a positive result on a home COVID-19 test can register the result at www.nshealth.ca/i-have-tested-positive.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal