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COVID-19: B.C. urging higher vaccination rates, especially within Interior Health region – Global News

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Three weeks after announcing health restrictions for the Central Okanagan because of a spike in COVID-19 cases, the entire Interior Health region is now under those same constraints.

In announcing the restrictions on Friday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, “unfortunately, we’ve also been seeing a steady rate of increase throughout the entire Interior Health Authority.”

Henry said the spike is “again in people primarily who are not yet vaccinated. This has been a particular challenge, as we are dealing with the displacement of people across the Interior Health region due to the ongoing wildfire situation, and it has strained health resources in a number of communities across Interior Health.”

Read more:
COVID-19 restrictions extended to entire B.C. Interior Health region as cases surge

According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the Central Okanagan had 922 cases between Aug. 8-14.

To put that number in perspective, that was greater than the combined rates of Vancouver (363), West Vancouver (10), North Vancouver (54), Burnaby (86), New Westminster (31), Richmond (57), Delta (45), the Tri-Cities (86) and Surrey (155). Combined, those cities totaled 887.

Henry said COVID-19 hotspots in B.C.’s Southern Interior included Nelson (117 cases), Creston (49), Vernon (109) and Kamloops (121).

“When we discussed what we needed to do to try and address some of the challenges that are being faced, and the pressures now on local health services,” said Henry, “we realized that we really needed to take in a regional approach that accounted for the fact that people are being displaced and are moving across and within the Interior region.”


Click to play video: 'Public concerned with Interior Health’s senior relocation plan due to Mount Law wildfire'



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Public concerned with Interior Health’s senior relocation plan due to Mount Law wildfire


Public concerned with Interior Health’s senior relocation plan due to Mount Law wildfire

Along with discouraging travel to the Southern Interior, Henry noted that Friday’s news “will be disheartening for many in this area, who are not only living with the challenges of the pandemic, but also with the challenges of wildfires, heat and smoke.”

However, she said there is positive news, as there’s been a levelling off of transmission rates in the Central Okanagan.

Still, other areas are climbing. In fact, provincial health minister Adrian Dix said for Nelson, the immunization rate is 72 per cent, and 65.4 per cent in Creston.

The province says 83 per cent people 12 and older in B.C. have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 74.3 per cent have received their second dose.

“It simply has to be higher,” Dix said of regions with lower than the provincial average.


Click to play video: 'Why climbing COVID-19 cases impact you — whether you’re vaccinated or not'



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Why climbing COVID-19 cases impact you — whether you’re vaccinated or not


Why climbing COVID-19 cases impact you — whether you’re vaccinated or not

Within Interior Health, the number of people who have received their first dose is 76.8 per cent, with 68 per cent getting their second dose. Notably, in downtown Kelowna, it’s up to 80.5 per cent.

Dix added “if you look at the numbers across B.C., you’ll see that people over 60, the numbers are pretty consistent across (all) health authorities. Where there is significant difference is under 50.”

The minister also said “that people can choose not to be vaccinated. But there will be significant things you will not be able to do if you’re not vaccinated.”

Dix did not elaborate on that statement.

“If you’re living in a community in the Interior Health Authority,” said Henry, “the best thing you can do to get us through these restrictions is to get vaccinated today, and encourage others in your life to do the same.”


Click to play video: 'Banks latest workplace to implement COVID-19 vaccine policies'



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Banks latest workplace to implement COVID-19 vaccine policies


Banks latest workplace to implement COVID-19 vaccine policies

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Chris Rock says he has COVID-19, urges vaccination – San Francisco Chronicle

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Sep. 19, 2021Updated: Sep. 19, 2021 11:45 a.m.

FILE – In this March 30, 2019 file photo, Chris Rock presents the award for outstanding comedy series at the 50th annual NAACP Image Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Chris Rock on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021 said he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.” (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Rock on Sunday said he has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.”

The 56-year-old comedian wrote on Twitter: “Hey guys I just found out I have COVID, trust me you don’t want this. Get vaccinated.”

Rock has previously said he was vaccinated. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” in May, he called himself “Two-shots Rock” before clarifying that he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“You know, I skipped the line. I didn’t care. I used my celebrity, Jimmy,” he told host Jimmy Fallon. “I was like, ‘Step aside, Betty White. Step aside, old people. … I did ‘Pootie Tang.’ Let me on the front of the line.'”

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'Waning immunity?': Experts say term leads to false understanding of COVID-19 vaccines – CHEK

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The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations.

But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.

While antibodies — proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen — do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.

And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.

Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.

“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.

“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”

Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University.

They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he added. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remains.

Kerfoot said B-cells, which make the antibodies, and T-cells, which limit the virus’s ability to cause serious damage, continue to work together to stave off severe disease long after a vaccine is administered. While T-cells can’t recognize the virus directly, they determine which cells are infected and kill them off quickly.

Recent studies have suggested the T-cell response is still robust several months following a COVID-19 vaccination.

“You might get a minor infection … (but) all of those cells are still there, which is why we’re still seeing very stable effectiveness when it comes to preventing severe disease,” Kerfoot said.

A pre-print study released this week by Public Health England suggested protection against hospitalization and death remains much higher than protection against infection, even among older adults.

So the concept of waning immunity depends on whether you’re measuring protection against infection or against severe disease, Kerfoot said.

Ontario reported 43 hospitalized breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated on Friday, compared to 256 unvaccinated hospitalized infections. There were 795 total new cases in the province that day, 582 among those who weren’t fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

British Columbia, meanwhile, saw 53 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the last two weeks, compared to 318 unvaccinated patients.

“You’ll hear people say that vaccines aren’t designed to protect infection, they’re designed to prevent severe disease,” Kerfoot said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s the vaccine that’s designed to do one or another … that’s just how the immune system works.”

Moderna released real-world data this week suggesting its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization, even amidst the more transmissible Delta variant, and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection — down from the 94 per cent efficacy seen in the clinical trials last year.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said that dip “illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”

Pfizer-BioNTech has argued the same with its own data, and an advisory panel to the U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to endorse third doses for those aged 65 and older, or at high risk for severe disease.

However, the panel rejected boosters for the general population, saying the pharmaceutical company had provided little safety data on extra jabs.

Gommerman said the efficacy data presented by Moderna doesn’t signal the need for a third dose.

“The fact it protects 87 per cent against infection, that’s incredible,” she said. “Most vaccines can’t achieve that.”

Bancel said Moderna’s research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested a booster dose could also extend the duration of the immune response by reupping neutralizing antibody levels.

But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious physician in Mississauga, Ont., said looking solely at the antibody response is misleading, and could be falsely used as justification for an infinite number of boosters.

Israel, which has opened third doses for its citizens, recently talked about administering fourth doses in the near future.

“This idea of waning immunity is being exploited and it’s really concerning to see,” Chakrabarti said. “There’s this idea that antibodies mean immunity, and that’s true … but the background level of immunity, the durable T-cell stuff, hasn’t been stressed enough.”

While some experts maintain boosters for the general population are premature, they agree some individuals would benefit from a third jab.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended boosters for the immunocompromised, who don’t mount a robust immune response from a two-dose series.

Other experts have argued residents of long-term care, who were prioritized when the rollout began last December, may also soon need a third dose. The English study suggests immunity could be waning in older groups but not much — if at all — among those under age 65.

Chakrabarti said a decrease in protection among older populations could be due more to “overlapping factors,” including their generally weaker immune systems and congregate-living situations for those in long-term care.

“These are people at the highest risk of hospitalization,” he said. “Could (the length of time that’s passed following their doses) be playing a role? Yeah, maybe.”

While we still don’t know the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, Gommerman said immune cells typically continue to live within bone marrow and make small amounts of antibodies for “decades.”

“And they can be quickly mobilized if they encounter a pathogen,” she said.

Melissa Couto Zuber/The Canadian Press

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Chris Rock gets COVID, urges vaccine – South Coast Register

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