VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s younger residents appear to be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 at rates similar to their older counterparts, a phenomenon that bucks trends seen in other provinces and fills at least one medical expert with optimism for the eventual success of the province’s immunization campaign.
Data from the Ministry of Health shows more than 63 per cent of eligible residents between the ages of 18 to 79 had registered to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as of May 18, the last date for which figures were available.
The data comes as a breath of fresh air for Dr. Matthew Chow, president of the Doctors of B.C., which represents thousands of physicians in the province.
He said unlike other provinces and territories, B.C. isn’t seeing a typical drop in registration in younger age groups.
“When you look out to other jurisdictions, as you start to decrease the age cohort … you do tend to see fewer people uptaking the vaccine,” Chow said in an interview. “But in B.C., so far so good.”
Data as of May 18 shows more than 58 per cent of eligible residents in the 18-24 and 25-29 age groups have registered for a vaccine, with that figure climbing above 60 per cent for those aged 30-34 and 35-39.
That has not always been the case, either in Canada or farther afield.
Quebec’s health minister said Saturday that while initial demand for COVID-19 vaccination was initially strong among teens, the uptake appears to have slowed in the 18 to 44 age group.
Christian Dubé said that group was falling short of meeting the province’s target of having 75 per cent of its population making an appointment or receiving a first shot.
Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley began urging younger residents to get vaccinated as far back as March, voicing concerns about the number of young people who hadn’t registered for an initial dose.
“As we drop from the 70-plus age category, the per cent vaccinated drops with every decade,” he said at the time. “What we are seeing are trends where we have higher vaccine uptake with older age groups, and I think that’s not an uncommon phenomenon, looking at other areas. We tend to have, I think, a little more hesitancy among the younger groups.”
He cited a range of reasons for younger residents to pass up vaccination opportunities, such as work and family commitments.
The territory is now looking to lift large parts of its health restrictions on Tuesday, a move Hanley attributed in part to the success of its vaccination efforts.
Health officials in the United States have also encouraged younger residents to get a shot without delay and do their part to build herd immunity.
Despite the strong numbers in B.C., some public health units are directly targeting younger residents in their efforts to get people vaccinated.
The Fraser Health authority launched an ad campaign specifically targeting young adults on Friday, a move Chow described as “proactive.”
“It’s wise to just get ahead of this, get as many people vaccinated as possible, be really, really aggressive about getting it out to young people as well and we can look forward to a much, much better summer and fall,” he said.
Chow said health authorities have also learned valuable lessons about outreach in certain cultural communities through the vaccination effort.
“We needed better reach out into certain communities, certain language groups, religious communities,” he said.
In places like Surrey, B.C., vaccination clinics are now being held in gurdwaras — places of worship for members of the Sikh community — which has helped, Chow added.
B.C. announced plans on Thursday to vaccinate youth aged 12 to 17 against COVID-19 at community clinics.
The province is also expected to announce its plan to lift certain health restrictions on Tuesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2021.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
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