On Sept . 28, a telephone conference town hall was held for residents in Northern B.C. to answer questions and provide information about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
The panel of health professionals included Minister of Health Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Northern Health Chief Medical Health Officer Bonnie Henry, Dr. Jong Kim, Northern Health VP of Pandemic Response Tanis Hampe and First Nations Acting Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shannon McDonald.
The over-arching goal of the conference was to encourage people in the region to get vaccinated, as the percentages of vaccinated people in Northern Health are below the provincial average, causing major stress on hospitals. Residents of Northern Health were able ask questions by phoning in or by web submission.
One person asked Dix if most people who are getting sick un-vaccinated people. “Certainly that’s the case for people getting the most sick,” he replied. “A majority of those who test positive are un-vaccinated and they represent a small percentage of the population. As well, the vast majority of those in medical care, meaning the most sick people across B.C. are un-vaccinated.”
Dix continued to say that on Sept. 28, there were 141 people in critical care, 118 of which are un-vaccinated, stating that those kind of numbers show the problems that hospitals in the region are currently facing.
“It is my strong advice, my strong encouragement and my strong wish that everyone get vaccinated. It will mean less transmission in the community and more hospital space for people in Northern Health and across the province,” he said.
There were some callers that brought up concerns about the vaccine, including a woman who has experienced allergic reactions to both the flu shot and the pneumonia shot. She told the panel that she had a mild case of myositis, which is inflammation of the muscles, after her first dose. This caused her to be scared of receiving the second dose.
Henry responded by telling the woman that myositis is something that can be caused by any vaccine, and that it isn’t as likely to occur after the second dose. “We don’t see it necessarily with the second dose, so there’s no guarantee that it will come back. I think you’re doing the right thing by talking to your doctor. The challenge is looking at is risk compared to benefit and making sure that you’re as protected as you can be, because what we know is that the virus itself causes these types of symptoms much more severely.”
Another question that came about was regarding whether it’s worth being vaccinated if a person has already contracted COVID-19. “If you were infected with this COVID-19 virus, it does change over time, as we’ve seen with the Delta Variant,” Henry replied. “Also, we know that infection can cause a different level of immunity that may not last as long as the vaccine, so I would still recommend getting vaccinated.”
A topic that was brought up is the effect the vaccine has on young people, and how it can impact fertility. “One of the questions I see being brought up on social media is about whether or not children will have their fertility impacted by the vaccine,” said Henry.
“What I can say is we know a lot about these vaccines, they’ve been given to millions of people around the world. We also know that the technology that’s gone into developing them has also been around for decades and we’ve seen it being used for various vaccines including cancer. We don’t have any evidence at all that the vaccine will have any effect on fertility for boys or girls. Biologically, there’s no plausible way that it can do that.”
Dr. Henry was also asked by one individual if the vaccine gives immunity to COVID-19. “Yes, but it isn’t 100 per cent,” she replied. “What we are seeing is that its in the the 90 per cent range in terms of effectiveness of being immune even with the new more transmissible Delta variant. Eight to ten per cent of vaccinated people can still get infected if they are exposed to the virus, but if you do get infected after being fully vaccinated, you are much more protected against having severe disease and hospitalization. You will also experience milder illness when vaccinated, and spread less virus because you will be sick for a shorter period of time.”
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