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COVID-19 in B.C.: New immunization campaign; cases among and measures against unvaccinated people; and more – The Georgia Straight

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With B.C. nearing the end of the fourth and final phase of its COVID-19 immunization plan, health officials provided an update on where the province is at with vaccinations and what it will do next.

At a news conference in Vancouver today (July 27), B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided updates about vaccination data and announced the launch of a new campaign that reflects a shift from mass vaccinations to reaching those who haven’t yet received vaccinations.

“With more than 80 percent of eligible people in B.C. vaccinated with their first dose and more than 60 percent fully vaccinated, we have made tremendous progress in our vaccine rollout,” Dix said.

Over 6.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in B.C. As of July 26, 3,736,651 people (80.6 percent) who are 12 years and above have received their first dose and 2,840,194 (61.3 percent) have received their second dose.

While Dix, Henry, and Ballem thanked everyone who has received their vaccinations, and those working in the immunization program, all note that more vaccinations still need to be done.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, with B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem
Province of British Columbia

“We now know that the majority of our new cases, some of which have increased in the last little while, are among people who have not yet received their vaccine,” Henry said.

According to data from the B.C. Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC), there were 1,210 COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people from June 15 to July 15 while there were 499 cases among people who had only received one dose.

In comparison, there were 65 cases, or less than five percent of COVID-19 cases, from June 15 to July 15 were among fully vaccinated people.

During that same time period, Henry pointed out that there has been a “high rate” of unvaccinated individuals—137 out of 176 hospitalized cases, or 78 percent—who have been hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19, and an additional 18 percent of those who have only received their first dose.

Henry also cited her colleagues in the U.S. who are seeing a “new pandemic” among those who are unvaccinated.

Ballem presented data about unvaccinated population numbers by regional health authorities.

In total, there are 906,722 British Columbians, or 19.6 percent, who have not yet been vaccinated.

The largest number of unvaccinated individuals is in Fraser Health 315,748—but that represents 18.4 percent of the population in that region.

Northern Health has the highest percentage of unvaccinated people, with 84,573 individuals, or 32.5 percent of its population.

Interior Health follows Fraser Health with 199,159 unvaccinated individuals, but follows Northern Health percentage-wise with 26.2 percent of its population unvaccinated.

Vancouver Coastal Health has 141,169 unvaccinated individuals, or 18.1 percent, which is about the same percentage as Fraser Health. 

Island Health has 166,123 unvaccinated individuals but that represents the lowest percentage in the province at 14.8 percent of its population.

Henry explained that there are vaccination challenges in Northern and Interior Health where there are small communities that are physically distant from each other, have lack of access to vaccines, or have been affected by wildfires.

B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

When asked if the province will take any punitive measures against those who are unvaccinated, Dix said that although vaccinations aren’t and won’t be mandatory in B.C., but “measures will be taken” to protect people from those who are unvaccinated, such as in longterm care facilities.

Henry explained that based on a survey, people have expressed a range of reasons why they remain unvaccinated, ranging from inconvenience of accessing vaccinations to lack of confidence in vaccines.

“It is choice to be immunized, but there are consequences for people who are not immunized,” Henry said, “and that’s going to be more important for us as we head into the fall, as we know that this virus will increase, as we know that we’ll likely see other respiratory viruses, and—incredibly important from my perspective—is protecting those people who we know may not mount as good an immune response from vaccine.”

Of the latter group, Henry said that includes seniors and elders, and those in longterm care and the healthcare sector.

As previously announced, Henry said that those working in healthcare who choose to remain unvaccinated will need to take additional prevention and control measures, such as wearing masks and regular testing, and that they won’t be permitted to work in specific settings.

“I have very little patience for people who are not vaccinated in healthcare,” Henry said, with a self-effacing chuckle.

Henry said that the number of anti-vaxxers in the province remains low, at about one to two percent of the population, which she said is a “very small percent” but that they are very organized and vocal.

Dix cited the example of measles immunizations amongst students in 2019, and that if there is an outbreak of measles, those who aren’t immunized will be excluded from school. Accordingly, he said that there will be similar consequences for not being immunized for COVID-19.

However, he also pointed out how young people responded to the measles immunization program and that he expects that those aged 18 to 24 will be more immunized than any other age group because of their willingness to participate in the program.

Citing the examples of recent clusters connected to nightclubs and gatherings in indoor settings with poor ventilation such as weddings or funerals, Henry said she is in support of businesses opting to require anyone to only admit people who are vaccinated.

“That gives people the level of comfort that they are in a safer environment,” she said. She added that if transmission occurs at a business, health officials will temporarily shut down the business.

The Vax for B.C. campaign, which will be aimed at reaching people who still need vaccinations, begins today and will continue throughout August, and will involve community events, vaccination vehicles, and mobile clinics across the province. More focus will be placed on local public health clinics, community outreach efforts, mobile programs, and pop-up clinics.

These events will permit all eligible individuals to drop in for vaccinations without appointments (although registration and booking with the provincial Get Vaccinated system is still encouraged).

The first provincewide Walk-in Wednesday will be held on August 4, which will make 20,000 doses available for drop-ins for anyone who is 12 years and above and is eligible for their first or second doses.  

A complete list of Vax for B.C. events throughout the province is available online

For today’s B.C. COVID-19 update, see this article

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Proof of COVID-19 vaccination required at Prince Edward County rec facilities and town halls – Quinte News

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The municipality of Prince Edward County is making some rule changes to comply with Ontario’s vaccine passport program.

Tuesday afternoon the municipality sent out a press release stating that anyone over 12 years of age looking to enter municipal recreation facilities or town halls will need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

This applies to meeting spaces and municipal offices as well.

Anyone looking to enter any of these facilities will need to show a paper or electronic proof of vaccination along with government-issued identification.

However, anyone accessing front counter services at Shire Hall, the Edward Building and the Picton Fire station will not need to provide proof of vaccination as active screening and contact tracing will continue at those locations.

Proof of vaccination is also not required to be shown by workers and volunteers, including coaches and officials, at recreation facilities.

See the full press release from Prince Edward County below:

New provincial regulations will require people 12 years of age or older to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to access the municipality’s meeting spaces, town halls, and recreation facilities beginning September 22, 2021.

People will be required to show:

  • An electronic or paper copy of their COVID-19 vaccination receipt indicating they are fully vaccinated
  • Matching government-issued identification with name and date of birth, such as a driver’s licence, birth certificate, citizenship card, Indian status card/Indigenous membership card, passport, permanent resident card or health card.

Children under 12 years of age are exempt under the provincial regulations.

Learn more about how the regulations apply for different buildings and spaces:

Municipal offices, meeting spaces, and town halls

People attending a meeting or event in a municipal building or town hall will be required to show proof of their vaccination status.

However, people accessing front counter services at Shire Hall, the Edward Building, and the Picton fire station do not have to provide proof of vaccination status. Active COVID-19 screening and contact tracing will continue at those locations.

Recreation facilities

Proof of vaccination status is required for recreation facility patrons 18 years and older, including parents or guardians of youth actively participating in an organized sport. Proof of identification and proof of being fully vaccinated is not required for workers or volunteers, including coaches and officials.

Patrons under 18 years of age who are entering the indoor premises of a facility used for sports and recreational fitness activities solely for the purpose of actively participating in an organized sport do not have to show proof of vaccination. This applies to training, practices, games and competitions. The exemption does not apply to youth who are spectators at sporting events; furthermore, it does not apply to youth who are using a gym or other area with exercise equipment or weights unless actively participating in an organized sport.

Businesses and other spaces

Under the provincial regulations, certain businesses, including restaurants and bars, meeting and event spaces, and facilities used for sports and fitness activities, such as gyms, will be required to check for proof of vaccination.

Visit the Province of Ontario website to learn more about the details of the provincial requirements for various settings.

More information

County Council will receive a report at its Sept. 28 meeting with a proposed policy and procedure regarding vaccine requirements for municipal staff. The report will be posted as part of the Council agenda package later this week.

For more information, contact the County of Prince Edward at 613.476.2148 extension 1023, 613.962.9108 extension 1023, or info@pecounty.on.ca.

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Rural schools close as Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine passport system begins – Powell River Peak

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EDMONTON — Two schools in rural Alberta closed their classrooms Monday over the number of students not attending because of COVID-19 infections as Edmonton police introduced tough new vaccine requirements on the first day of the province’s new proof-of-vaccination program.

The Big Valley and Donalda schools, both in central Alberta’s Clearview Public School Division, announced that too many students are away from school to continue in-person classes.

“The percentage of students away continues to be over 10 per cent with reported cases of COVID-19,” the division said in a release.

The two schools are closed to in-person learning for students in Grades 1 through 9 until Oct. 1. Kindergarten and playschool classes will continue.

“Instruction and learning opportunities will be offered using a combination of online and paper-based materials,” the release said. “Classroom teachers will provide a detailed schedule so that students will have direct access to them at specified times during the day.”

Alberta Education spokeswoman Nicole Sparrow said the province received the request from the school division, which must be approved before a school can actually close.

“Approval from the Minister of Education is required for a short-term shift of one or more schools or an entire school authority to at-home/online learning,” she wrote in an email. 

“A decision for a school authority request will be based on the ability of a school to have staff available to operate in-school classes.” 

The Edmonton Police Service said it will give its members three choices on immunization: vaccinate, pay for their own rapid COVID-19 tests or stay home without pay until the situation changes or one of the first two conditions is met. 

“(Police) volunteers and contractors will also be required to either indicate they have been fully vaccinated or submit to rapid testing to engage in their duties,” the service said in a release. 

Police spokeswoman Chery Sheppard said more than 86 per cent of the service’s sworn and civilian employees have been fully vaccinated.  

Alberta averaged about 1,500 new cases daily over the weekend, recording 4,633 cases between Friday and Sunday. The province had 954 people with COVID-19 in hospital, 216 of them in intensive care.

The province recorded 22 deaths over the three days.

Earlier Monday, the government released more details about which businesses and institutions come under its restriction exemption plan, allowing eligible public organizations to function more normally. 

Retail stores, libraries, hotels and post-secondary institutions will not be required to take part in the program, nor will worshippers at a church, employees on a work site or students on a school trip.

Some restrictions will still apply. 

Stores must limit shoppers to one-third of normal capacity, for example, and people in indoor public spaces must still be masked. 

Entertainment facilities from restaurants to nightclubs to art galleries are all eligible to participate in the program, allowing them to operate with fewer restrictions as long as they require patrons to show proof of vaccination. 

Premier Jason Kenney announced the program last week. Retail stores and libraries were initially on the list of eligible organizations but were removed on the weekend.

Kenney had previously opposed a vaccine passport over what he said were privacy concerns. He switched to support for passports as Alberta’s hospitals faced the prospect of being overwhelmed in the pandemic’s fourth wave.

Starting Sunday, immunized Albertans could download proof-of-vaccination cards, but some pointed out they could be easily altered. 

A health ministry spokeswoman said work continues on a more secure QR code that would be available in the coming weeks. Starting Tuesday, Albertans will be able to request a free, printed version of their vaccination records from a registry agent.

Over the weekend, the province’s four largest health-care unions asked Kenney to request help from the military, the Red Cross and any other available medical resources able to assist hospitals caring for an increasing number of patients.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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Saskatchewan’s digital proof of vaccination launches ahead of October requirement – Red Deer Advocate

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REGINA — Saskatchewan residents were able on Monday to start downloading a digital QR code from their eHealth account showing proof of vaccination.

The government said in a news release that the code — which can be downloaded or printed — replaces the COVID-19 vaccination record that was made available in August but did not include a digital format.

The province announced last week that proof of vaccination will be required at non-essential businesses — including restaurants, casinos, movie theatres and indoor sports venues — beginning Oct. 1.

It won’t be required for civil services, retail or grocery stores, places of worship, hotels or at non-ticketed amateur sporting events.

Businesses can verify the QR codes on mobile devices using a special app.

The news release said travellers at international borders will also be able to use the code.

“This is the next, improved, version of Saskatchewan’s COVID-19 vaccination record,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said in the release.

“It has been something that travellers, businesses and organizations have been asking for.”

The announcement followed a record-breaking 543 daily cases in Saskatchewan on Sunday.

On Monday, the province reported 519 infections and two deaths. The active number of cases stood at 4,672. Some 253 people were being treated in hospital.

Saskatchewan remains in the first phase of its triage plan, which means choices are being made about which surgeries need to be cancelled to free up space.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2021.

COVID-19Saskatchewan

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