Staff buy in on immunization at Kelowna's Cottonwoods care home expected to improve | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Staff buy in on immunization at Kelowna's Cottonwoods care home expected to improve

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March 11, 2021 - 3:47 PM

The low vaccination rate for staff at Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna may be because it was the first facility in the Interior Health region to be offered the vaccine.

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared at the long-term care facility on Sunday, March 7, after two staff members and 10 residents tested positive. The next day, Interior Health medical health officer Dr. Sue Pollock said only 65 per cent of the staff there were vaccinated, even though the vaccines were first offered in December.

READ MORE: Only 65% of staff at Kelowna long-term care facility with COVID-19 outbreak took vaccine

That early start may be a key reason behind the low vaccination rate.

“We know there are many reasons why health care workers may not have been immunized,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said today, March 11, during a news conference.

“People had questions,” she said. “Does it affect me if I’m thinking of becoming pregnant? Does it affect me if I’m breastfeeding? Does is have effects on my future fertility? These are questions that were a lot more top of mind for people early on when we started this immunization program.”

At that time, the vaccines were new and people who were pregnant or breastfeeding were advised not to get vaccinated, Dr. Henry said.

Since then, tens of millions of people have been vaccinated around the world, “and we have not seen any safety signals” for pregnant or nursing women, she said.

The opposite is now the case.

“We know there is an increased risk for people who are pregnant to have more severe COVID disease and it can have an effect on their pregnancy so, with that, it’s a different risk benefit balance that we know tips in favour of receiving vaccine,” Dr. Henry said.

Provincewide, 29,782, or 96 per cent, of long-term care residents have been vaccinated, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

There have been 38,785 staff in those facilities, well over 90 per cent, who have been vaccinated, he said.

Interior Health is working with staff at Cottonwoods to encourage them to vaccinate, Dr. Henry said, but vaccines are not mandatory in Canada or B.C. and she doesn’t see a need to change that for staff in long-term care homes.

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