Provincial and Northern Health officials urge vaccinations during virtual town hall

Northern Health residents ask questions directly to health minister and provincial health officer

A panel of provincial health care professionals held a town hall on Sept. 28 to take questions from the public, in an effort to encourage people in the Northern Health region to get vaccinated. (File photo/Lakes District News)

A panel of provincial health care professionals held a town hall on Sept. 28 to take questions from the public, in an effort to encourage people in the Northern Health region to get vaccinated. (File photo/Lakes District News)

Provincial and northern health officials urged northern residents to get vaccinated in a telephone conference town hall Sept. 28.

“It is my strong advice, my strong encouragement and my strong wish that everyone get vaccinated,” said Minister of Health Adrian Dix. “It will mean less transmission in the community and more hospital space for people in Northern Health and across the province.”

Dix was responding to a question from a caller who asked if most of the people who were contracting COVID were unvaccinated.

“Certainly that’s the case for people getting the most sick,” he replied. “A majority of those who test positive are unvaccinated and they represent a small percentage of the population. As well, the vast majority of those in medical care, meaning the most sick people across B.C. are unvaccinated.”

Dix continued to say that, on Sept. 28 in the North, there were 141 people in critical care, 118 of whom were unvaccinated, stating that those kinds of numbers show the problems that hospitals in the region are currently facing.

The telephone conference town hall featured a panel of health professionals includ Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Jong Kim, Northern Health VP of Pandemic Response Tanis Hampe and First Nations Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald.

The over-arching goal of the conference was to encourage people in the region to get vaccinated, as the percentages of vaccinated people in Northern Health are well below the provincial average, causing major stress on hospitals. Residents of Northern Health were able ask questions by phoning in or by web submission.

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There were some callers who brought up concerns about the vaccine, including a woman who has experienced allergic reactions to both the flu shot and the pneumonia shot. She told the panel she had a mild case of myositis, which is inflammation of the muscles, after her first dose. This caused her to be scared of receiving the second dose.

Henry responded by telling the woman that myositis is something that can be caused by any vaccine, and that it isn’t as likely to occur after the second dose.

“We don’t see it necessarily with the second dose, so there’s no guarantee that it will come back. I think you’re doing the right thing by talking to your doctor. The challenge is looking at risk compared to benefit and making sure that you’re as protected as you can be, because what we know is that the virus itself causes these types of symptoms much more severely.”

Another caller asked whether it is worth being vaccinated if a person has already contracted COVID-19.

“If you were infected with this COVID-19 virus, it does change over time, as we’ve seen with the Delta Variant,” Henry replied. “Also, we know that infection can cause a different level of immunity that may not last as long as the vaccine, so I would still recommend getting vaccinated.”

A topic that was of great interest to some was the effect of the vaccine on young people and whether it can impact fertility.

“One of the questions I see being brought up on social media is about whether or not children will have their fertility impacted by the vaccine,” said Henry.

“What I can say is we know a lot about these vaccines, they’ve been given to millions of people around the world. We also know that the technology that’s gone into developing them has also been around for decades and we’ve seen it being used for various vaccines including cancer. We don’t have any evidence at all that the vaccine will have any effect on fertility for boys or girls. Biologically, there’s no plausible way that it can do that.”

Henry was also asked if the vaccine gives immunity to COVID-19.

“Yes, but it isn’t 100 per cent,” she replied. “What we are seeing is that it’s in the 90 per cent range in terms of effectiveness of being immune even with the new more transmissible Delta variant.

“Eight to 10 per cent of vaccinated people can still get infected if they are exposed to the virus, but if you do get infected after being fully vaccinated, you are much more protected against having severe disease and hospitalization. You will also experience milder illness when vaccinated, and spread less virus because you will be sick for a shorter period of time.”

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Eddie Huband
Multimedia Reporter
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