With the wind-down of the Prince Rupert community COVID-19 clinic on March 22, Northern Health is still vaccinating some who missed or couldn’t attend the clinic, is issuing a warning to the community to still be vigilant, and is hopeful the second-shot vaccine booster will be administered in July.
Extreme concerns have been discussed between health officials at Prince Rupert Regional Hospital that the public may become complacent after receiving COVID-19 immunizations and may drop their vigilance creating higher risk factors for transmission, Julia Pemberton health services administrator in Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii for Northern Health said, on March 25.
This would place an undue burden on the already stretched hospital system in the city and create uncertainty to the system’s ability to absorb higher case numbers, she said.
”Our health care system is really stretched right now … we just don’t know how many more really, really sick people we can take care of. So we need people to hold on for two more weeks.”
Pemberton stresses the COVID-19 vaccine is not effective until 14 days have passed from the time a person received a shot.
“I am worried that people are going to get vaccinated and then start gathering. I’m worried that before the vaccine can take its full effectiveness if people are not following the public health guidance or staying home, then we’re going to see a lot more COVID in our hospital and in our community.
“So, I’m worried that there’s going to be a spike in COVID … because of the perceived safety of the vaccine.”
Pemberton said that even though the first vaccine gives 90 per cent immunity with the second dose increasing effectiveness to around 94 per cent, it is unknown how long the vaccine lasts in a person.
“(COVID-19) has really only been in people’s bodies for a year – so that’s as far as the science goes. I know that there are global studies that are looking at antibody levels over time from people in the trials. They’re still collecting that data, and they’re still watching people’s antibodies and seeing when do they fall.”
When asked about the four-month period in between the first COVID-19 shot and the follow-up booster, Pemberton said that the health authority is not the one who determines the length of time in between injections. That decision has been made by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization.
“It’s a panel of experts who reviewed the scientific literature and decided that was an appropriate decision to make. So Northern Health didn’t make that decision. We’re just following the guidelines.”
The health services administrator said she has received no information to indicate that the boosters will not be administered according to the NACI’s recommendations, which in the case of Prince Rupert would be around July.
‘So, everything that I’m being told is that we are going to be immunizing at the four-month mark,” she told The Northern View.
“I’m going on the plan that we’re immunizing again. We’ve left the clinic down at the Civic Center ready to re-open if we get the go-ahead.”
With more than 8,500 vaccines administered during the community-whole clinic the city is now ahead of other communities which need the focus on their first vaccine, Pemberton said, with the Province stating everyone will able to receive the first dose by July, instead of September as originally announced.
First vaccines are still available to residents in the Prince Rupert area by phoning the local health unit, Pemberton said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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