Don’t blame anti-vaxxers for Central Okanagan’s low vaccination rate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Don’t blame anti-vaxxers for Central Okanagan’s low vaccination rate

David Crawford is committed to protesting against the anti-mask and anti-vaccine protests in Kelowna. He is seen on Harvey Avenue on Jan. 1, 2021 in this file photo.
May 28, 2021 - 2:22 PM

The Central Okanagan, and particularly Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood, score below the provincial average when it comes to vaccination rates.

Kelowna, with its weekly anti-mask/anti-vaccine rallies, may also be a provincial leader when it comes to pushing back against immunization.

But Interior Health's chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers doesn’t think there’s a direct link between those two factors.

“I think they (anti-vaxers) do have an impact in their small social circle, definitely,” Dr. de Villiers said at a news conference today, May 28.

“But, mostly, those are people of the same mind. They tend to flock together and they egg each other on to not get any vaccine and take on any conspiracy theory that you can imagine and then try to dissuade people but the general population are really smarter than that. They understand vaccine is a good thing and they need it to protect themselves.”

READ MORE: B.C.'s health minister concerned about lagging vaccination rates in Central Okanagan

The fact that more than 60 per cent of residents in the Interior Health region have rushed to get vaccinated and are just as keen to get their second doses is testament to that, he said.

“We know that the next 20 per cent that we need to get us to 80 to 90 per cent is going to be more work,” Dr. de Villiers said. “Those are not necessarily those who are anti-vaccine. Those are people that have got access barriers, people that we’ve got to make it easier for them to actually get their vaccine.”

A pop-up clinic in Rutland’s Centennial park earlier this week drew more than 300 people who were able to just walk up and get vaccinated. More such events are likely to happen to increase the visibility of vaccinations and make them more convenient.

“Then you get the last little piece, those that are a little bit hesitant because of some misinformation that they saw on social media and they don’t necessarily understand it so they need a little bit more information,” Dr. de Villiers said.

“Then there’s the last two, three, maybe four per cent of the population that really are anti-vaccine. They are very loud and very vocal and they’ve got a big platform on social media and they really bang the drum on their specific issue but I don’t think they’ve got such a big impact as they think they do.”

There have now been almost 475,000 COVID vaccines administered in the region. Everyone over the age of 12 is eligible and clinics are ramping up to provide second doses within eight weeks of the first ones being given.

Still, the rate of transmission in the Interior Health region and, particularly in the Central Okanagan, is not declining as quickly as in other areas of the province.

READ MORE: COVID cases up in Interior Health, falling in rest of B.C.

Dr. de Villiers said there is no single reason for that. Most transmissions are in households but there are a smattering of cases showing up in workplaces and schools.

Register for vaccinations at the Get Vaccinated website here or by calling 1-833-838-2323.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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