The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.

Get your booster shot, stay vigilant: Local doctors

Health authority messaging isn’t clear, and it was reflected in the numbers according to local doctors

Messaging from health authorities in B.C. and around Canada are causing too much confusion according to local doctors.

Dr. Tara Chalmers-Nixon, who is chair of the Medical Staff Association at the Elk Valley Hospital said she agreed with sentiments that COVID-messaging and when to get vaccinated was unclear.

“I really wish we had uniform national messaging, because even though we are a large country geographically, we have a small population and family all over Canada and the world,” she said.

“To quote (infection diseases doctor) Isaac Bogach … his specific words were ‘ideally we would have a coordinated, country wide vaccine policy and communications, and we don’t.’

“This is contributing to confusion and mistrust,” said Chalmers-Nixon.

Within British Columbia, a first booster is available to everyone over 12, while invitations for a second booster dose are going out to those over 70 and people who are immunocompromised.

Chalmers-Nixon said that that information wasn’t being clearly advertised though, with those seeking information having to go clicking through a mass of web pages, and seemingly discouraged from seeking a booster even if their last one was over six months ago.

“It seeds doubt, and I think that’s wrong,” she said.

Even for health professionals, the message was unclear. “We’ve had our booster seven months ago for some of us, so are we supposed to gt a booster dose now? … or do we cross our fingers and hope there’ll be a better booster available come September?”

The numbers were showing many weren’t compelled to get a booster either. BC CDC data shows a little under 53 percent of British Columbian’s have received a third dose, compared to over 90 percent of eligible people for a first dose, and almost 88 percent of eligible people for a second dose.

“Our experts would tell us that fully vaccinated means three doses,” said Chalmers Nixon, who added that while the fourth dose messaging was a concern, far more needed to be done to get everyone else up to speed.

“Before we even worry about the fourth dose, I’d love to see everyone get their third dose. Especially school-aged children. None of the kids under 12 have even been invited for their third dose, and those aged 12-17, only 37 percent have received it.

“My concern about that is that they can get their first dose now … most of these children are preschooler or daycare aged, which doesn’t give enough time before the school years starts for them to get a second dose.”

Speaking of schools, Chalmers-Nixon said the provincial authorities also needed to get a move on applying upgrades to schools.

“This is the third summer where we’re hearing nothing about some of the areas of highest transmission, like schools. We’ve got overcrowded schools with young children that are under-vaccinated, yet we hear budget announcements about improving ventilation, and nothing coming down from the school district because they’re on holidays.”

On mask mandates, Chalmers-Nixon said that while the Elk Valley had been spared the worst of case numbers (though the data is increasingly unreliable due to testing falling away), and B.C. had a low count of deaths per million, everyone needed to stay vigilant and be ready.

“I would anticipate that if the numbers start to rise here, we need to be ready to expect a re-institution of mask mandates like we’re seeing in other parts of the world. It’s not meant to be punishment, it’s meant to be protective.”

Current case numbers for the Local Health Area have been tracking in the single digits per week since the beginning of May 2022, with the last major spike in numbers back in January.

READ MORE: High elevation, high numbers: B.C. resort towns report COVID spikes
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