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Prince Rupert officials dispel ‘bad behaviour’ accusations amid vaccine access

Social media backlash on Prince Rupert COVID-19 immunization clinics
The Prince Rupert COVID-19 community vaccination clinics starting March 14, have drawn the attention of many on social media stating the city is being ‘rewarded for bad behaviour.’ (Photo: file photo)

A Prince Rupert city councillor is pushing back against criticism from others in the province in response to the province’s decision to rollout COVID-19 vaccinations to all adults in the northern coastal community.

“The insinuation that our community is somehow being ‘rewarded for bad behaviour’ is absolutely wrong,” Blair Mirau Prince Rupert city councillor said on March 12.

Earlier this week, B.C. health officials made the decision to stray away from the povincial age-based vaccination program in order to combat growing concerns of transmission of the novel coronavirus in Prince Rupert.

Mirau said that timing is everything.

“After 12 months of success in containing the spread of the virus, our community’s localized clusters happen to have emerged at the same time that the provincial vaccine rollout is accelerating,” he stated in an email to The Northern View.

“If any other community shared our geography, risk factors, and overcapacity health care system, we would be happy to see them prioritized as well.”

Fellow city councillor Barry Cunnigham said he is proud of the way Prince Rupert residents have handled COVID-19 over the past year. He sees residents taking possible transmission of the virus very seriously. They are following the rules and especially wearing masks to be careful, he said.

“It’s a tight-knit community with a lot of interaction between different people at different times and multi-generations living in houses. It boils down to that once it got into the community, it was just rampant,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think we’re being rewarded for bad behaviour. It’s good news and bad news.”

Cunningham said he is happy that Northern Health and the Province have “stepped up to the plate.”

Eryn Collins, communications manager for Northern Health, said it has been the plan all along to take a focused approach to areas where there is an ongoing transmission or outbreak concerns and doesn’t take away from the access for other regions.

“B.C. is receiving an increasing supply of vaccines, and that’s allowing (community vaccination clinics) to happen.”

The second thing to be considered Collins said, is there are a number of communities, not just in the north, where a ‘whole-community’ approach is being taken regarding vaccine eligibility. Reasons for the various approaches to vaccine delivery to the population differ for a combination of reasons.

“It could be due to the population size, and knowing that it just makes more logistical sense for the purposes of protecting those communities. It could be due to their remote aspects or accessibility for those communities to higher levels of care if they’re needed, that a whole community approach has been taken to vaccine eligibility.”

Collins explained that as the Northern Health Region is further west in the country when viruses happen it typically takes longer for the virus to reach the regions because they spread with people along highways and travel routes.

“Part of the plan all along, as additional supply of vaccines comes, is that those targeted approaches can be taken to address outbreaks, clusters, high population incidence rates of COVID-19,” Collins said. “That is the driving factor in Prince Rupert in the area.”

Collins said, unfortunately “a chunk” of the large number of the cases in recent Princ Rupert history is related to the long-term health care facility outbreak.

“It’s not about the case numbers, so much as it is the ongoing positive tests,” she said. “(COVID-19) is still being transmitted within the community and this is the way to shut that down. This is the tool we have to shut it down.”

 K-J Millar | Journalist 
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