British Columbia’s provincial health officer began her update on COVID-19 by paying tribute to the 215 children whose remains were discovered at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says there are no words that could do justice to the children who died scared and alone, far from home and their families as part of a system that tried to extinguish Indigenous people through ideologies rooted in “settler supremacy.”
Henry transitioned into the province’s path forward with COVID-19 by highlighting that over three million first doses of a vaccine have been administered, amounting to 66 per cent of the population aged 12 and over.
The province recorded 708 cases over the last three days, along with 11 deaths for a total of 1,703 fatalities from the virus.
Henry says a third B.C. resident, a man in his 30s, has experienced a blood clot related to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and that she’ll provide vaccine options later this week for those who have already received the first shot of that product.
She says that while case counts are declining, everyone is urged to keep taking precautions against the virus because only about 180,000 B.C. residents have received a second dose of vaccine.
“While we are making significant headway in our immunization efforts and that is reflected in the decreasing case counts in our communities and in our hospitals, it is still a time of caution for all of us. New strains are circulating and outbreaks are still occurring in schools, in hospitals, in long-term care and in our communities.”
The province is currently in the midst of an incubation period for the virus following a long weekend so anyone who may have contracted the virus will start to have symptoms and should get tested right away, Henry says.
“We have seen new outbreaks in recent days and we all need to take our precautions to prevent more,” she says, adding masks will still need to be worn until about July even by people who have had two doses of the vaccine because vaccines alone are not fully protective against infection.
Long-term care homes have seen some rapid transmission of the virus because not all residents have received a second shot and neither have visitors, so restrictions cannot be fully lifted in the facilities where people are in close contact, Henry says.
However, she says more second doses will be available sooner than expected as extra shipments of vaccines are due to arrive next month and beyond.
Henry says the fact that 12 youth in B.C. received the Moderna vaccine instead of the Pfizer-BioNTech in error isn’t expected to have any negative effects and that new procedures have been put in place to try and ensure mix-ups do not occur.
The national advisory panel on immunization has said there are no safety or effectiveness concerns related to mixing mRNA vaccines made by different companies.
The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one approved for youth 12 and up, and Henry says two doses of that product should be provided as recommended.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2021.