B.C. announces 120 more cases of COVID-19 and one more death
There are now 131 people in hospital with the disease, including 44 in intensive care
B.C. health officials announced 120 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and said one more person has died from the disease.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the latest death was a person in their 80s who was infected during an outbreak at Richmond Hospital. She added that this person appears to have been unvaccinated.
There are now 1,451 active cases of the novel coronavirus across B.C. Of those, 131 patients are in hospital, including 44 in intensive care. The number of patients in hospital has fallen by about 26 per cent in the last week, while the number in intensive care has dropped by 10 per cent.
As B.C. continues to open up again, Henry said the numbers show an ongoing decrease in transmission.
"We've done the right things, and we need to keep going," Henry said. "Let's continue to safely restart, slowly and with respect for others."
Henry said 4,231,871 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have now been administered in the province, including 768,008 second doses. That means 76.5 per cent of adults have received at least one shot, as have 74.8 per cent of people over the age of 12.
"Our vaccine program continues to go full speed across the province," Henry said.
But she also noted that there will be "upcoming challenges" with the delivery of doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in July, and supply will be reduced.
At the same time, a substantial new supply of Moderna shots is expected to arrive beginning this week, and Henry said public health workers will do their best to make sure there is enough vaccine for everyone, which may mean mixing and matching.
"These are both safe and effective, and ... are considered interchangeable," she said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said 392,420 doses of Moderna are expected in B.C. next week.
Henry also addressed a new recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization that people who've had AstraZeneca-Oxford for their first dose of vaccine should receive Pfizer or Moderna for their second shot.
"Here in B.C. our advice has not changed. You make the choice that is right for you," she said. "We can be very reassured that two doses of whatever vaccine you receive are safe and effective and work."
WATCH: Dr. Bonnie Henry explains options for second vaccine doses
Henry noted that if immune responses wane with time for any combination of vaccines, a third dose may be needed. At this point, she said there's no indication that will be necessary.
Asked about the ideal gap between doses of any vaccine, Henry said "we don't actually know what the optimal interval is yet," but added that spacing out shots by eight to 12 weeks appears to offer better protection than the four weeks studied during clinical trials.
Asked about vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the province, Henry said the larger issue appears to be complacency. For some people, she said, taking the time to register and book an appointment can be a major inconvenience, which means the challenge for B.C. is making it much easier for everyone to get the shot.
"There's very few people that are absolutely against immunization. Sometimes they're very vocal," she said.
So far in the pandemic, 1,739 people have died of COVID-19 out of 146,794 confirmed cases.
A continuing downward trend in caseloads and hospitalizations allowed for Step 2 activities to be greenlighted this week.
These include recreational travel throughout B.C.; outdoor and organized indoor gatherings of fewer than 50 people; the return of indoor fitness classes, team sport play and faith services; and the extension of alcohol-service hours to midnight when dining out.
Masks and physical distancing are still mandatory. Personal indoor gatherings must remain small: just one additional household or five other people.
Horgan said Monday people living in other provinces are not welcome in B.C. unless they have an essential reason to travel.
NACI recommends against AstraZeneca
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending the provinces stop administering the AstraZeneca vaccine in most cases — even as booster shots for people who've already received first doses of the product.
NACI said Thursday that AstraZeneca recipients should instead receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, like the ones offered by Pfizer and Moderna.
The guidance to divert AstraZeneca doses from the supply chain comes weeks after NACI, an independent body composed of volunteer experts, said the AstraZeneca vaccine is not the "preferred" product for first doses given its associated risk of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) — a condition that causes blood clots combined with low platelets.
The news led to some cancellations of second dose appointments for AstraZeneca at B.C. pharmacies, according to Chris Chiew, general manager of pharmacy for London Drugs. But he added that many people are still choosing to go ahead with their bookings.
"When the second doses became available, we did have a very high interest of people actually wanting that second dose — and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people," he told CBC News.
Because B.C. is not recommending against AstraZeneca, Chiew said London Drugs is welcoming people to book their second dose appointments, and anyone who is unsure can ask their pharmacist for advice.
Health officials have stressed the importance of registering for your first dose if you have not yet done so.
British Columbians aged 12 and over can register in three ways:
- Online through the new Get Vaccinated portal.
- By calling 1-833-838-2323. Translators are available in 140 languages.
- In person at any Service B.C. location.
The province is aiming to have most people get their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine eight weeks after their first.
With files from John Paul Tasker, Meera Bains and Bridgette Watson