Interior Health needs to focus on ages 25 to 50 for vaccinations: Health Minister | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Interior Health needs to focus on ages 25 to 50 for vaccinations: Health Minister

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix at a COVID-19 update, April 29, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.
August 04, 2021 - 6:00 PM

While the Interior Health region’s vaccination rate is seven percentage points behind Vancouver Coastal, it’s only certain age groups that lag behind, Health Minister Adrian Dix told during an exclusive interview today, Aug. 4.

And that’s not because Kelowna has been ground-zero for anti-vaccine protests in the province.

“The concern I have is that we tend to socialize with people who are either in our family or in our age group,” Dix said. “So, if you have, in a region, demographics with relatively low vaccination rates and you have a more transmissible virus as the COVID-19 virus mutates, you’re going to see situations like we’ve seen in the Central Okanagan this past few weeks, where you see very quick and very sudden increases in transmission of COVID-19.”

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared in the Central Okanagan on July 28 as the Interior Health region accounted for more than half the cases in B.C. on many days with the Central Okanagan recording the majority of cases in Interior Health.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared in Central Okanagan, masking ordered for all indoor spaces

The vaccination rate for those over the age of 12 is only 75 per cent in Interior Health versus 81.6 per cent in the province as a whole and 83 per in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

For those over the age of 50, the numbers are much closer, Dix said. Those aged 18-24 have higher vaccination rates than those in their 40s.

“Sometimes we target on young people but it’s younger people, people under 50 (who have lower vaccination rates),” Dix said. “These are, in our society, the most active people, the people who meet the most people and are the most transmissive and are working in industries, in service industries as well. This is the group of people we really need to focus on now to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in B.C.”

There is a great range in vaccination rates, even between different parts of the same city in Interior Health.

Kamloops Central South has the highest vaccination rate in the region at 83 per cent while Kamloops Central North is only at 75 per cent.

The Okanagan Mission neighbourhood of Kelowna is at 81 per cent while Rutland is only at 71 per cent, which is a marked improvement from May after it was declared a high transmission area and became the focus of extra vaccination efforts.

The difference in vaccination rates may have more to do with the age of residents living in those neighbourhoods than the economic differences, Dix said.

While there have been many anti-vaccine protests in Kelowna, Dix doesn’t see that as a major contributor to lower vaccination rates.

“I don’t see younger people as the driving force of those protests," he said.

On the other hand, he recognizes that the anti-vaccine protesters are not likely to change their ways.

“I know some people, like the people who are demonstrating against vaccinations, we’re not going to convince them,” he said. “But what we can do, it seems to me, is to get everybody else vaccinated and, if we do that, we’re all going to be a lot safer. And, you know who else is going to be safer is those people who are demonstrating.”

People who are not vaccinated disproportionately socialize with people their own age who are also unvaccinated, Dix said. Combined with the more transmissible Delta variant, that’s been a significant contribution to the spread of COVID in the Central Okanagan, he said.

He downplayed the role visitors from Alberta might play.

“This isn’t an Alberta problem brought to B.C.,” Dix said. “The COVID-19 pandemic is everywhere and the transmission you see in the Central Okanagan is principally transmitted in social gatherings. So, it’s either been family gatherings where it’s been transmitted or gatherings in the community. It’s not the case in the Central Okanagan that this is imported from Alberta. There may be some people who that’s true of but this is also something we have to deal with. We can’t look somewhere else and say there’s an easy answer and point to someone else.”

Today is “Walk-in Wednesday” throughout B.C. where anyone over the age of 12 can walk into any clinic and get their first vaccine dose and anyone vaccinated before June 16 can get their second dose.

One key reason for those in the 25-50 age group to get vaccinated is because they love to travel, Dix said.

“We need people to get vaccinated for their own protection but also for their opportunities,” Dix said. “A lot of young people like to travel – they travel more than me – and you’re not going to be able to leave Canada if you’re not vaccinated.”

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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News from © iNFOnews, 2021

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