Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry today presented data showing that nearly half of those who died in October—46 per cent, or 82 people—were fully vaccinated. And the majority of those people were over age 80.
She said age continues to be the No. 1 risk factor for severe illness or death from COVID-19, and that the best thing we can do to protect people at any age is vaccination. But older people do not mount as strong or long-lasting an immune response to vaccination.
“It is the people around our Elders and seniors who also need to be protected through vaccination, because if they get infected, the risk of having more severe illness is that much higher,” she said.
Henry said a “good proportion” of breakthrough cases in seniors occurred in high-risk settings like long-term care facilities or assisted living facilities, or in communities in places like multi-generational homes with more crowding.
“If we look at people over age 80—very high immunization rates. And so those deaths reflect the small number of people that are still susceptible, and the fact that the people around them, they’ve been exposed to this virus and their chances of getting severely ill and dying is just that much greater,” said Henry.
She also described B.C.’s current COVID-19 situation as a fragile balance. For the first time in several months, the reproductive number or Rt has dropped below one. If this number is one, it means that each person infected goes on to infect one other person on average. Henry said while this is good news, the number is only just below one.
She said the continued high hospitalization rates, cases and transmission can be partially attributed to the more transmissible Delta variant which can also cause more severe illness in younger people, particularly those who are unvaccinated.
“The risk is and continues to be dramatically higher for people who are not yet vaccinated,” said Henry. “This is now a preventable disease, particularly severe illness and hospitalizations.”
To stay on track over the next few months, Henry said there are five things people can do:
• Get a COVID-19 booster dose when it’s your turn.
• Get your first or second dose now if you haven’t already.
• Get an influenza vaccine.
• Register younger children and get them vaccinated when vaccine is available in the coming weeks.
• Stay home if you’re feeling unwell, get tested if you need to, and wear masks in indoor public spaces where you’re around other people whose vaccination status is unknown.
In a written update, health officials reported 596 new cases of COVID-19 today, two of which are epidemiologically linked. Since the pandemic began, B.C. has recorded 207,716 cases.
Of the new cases, 46 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 222 in the Fraser Health region, 54 in the Island Health region, 115 in the Interior Health region, 159 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.
There are 4,451 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and 438 of those people are hospitalized, 130 of whom are in intensive care.
To date, 8,295,846 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C.; 3,968,494 of those are second doses.
This means that 90.5 per cent of adults and 90.1 per cent of people aged 12 and older have received their first dose of a vaccine. In addition, 86.2 per cent of adults and 85.6 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received two doses.
Sadly, there were eight new virus-related deaths reported today, bringing that total to 2,200. Of those who died, two lived in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, three in the Fraser Health region and three in the Northern Health region.
Health authorities reported two new healthcare facility outbreaks and declared five over. Active outbreaks continue at 17 long-term care facilities, 11 assisted or independent living facilities and nine acute care facilities.
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel