British Columbia

Vaccine bookings are ticking upwards in B.C. That's good news for burnt-out health-care workers

The vaccine card has upped vaccination bookings, much to the relief of some health-care workers on the verge of burnout.

As of Friday, 83.9 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

The Interior Health Authority says more than 250,000 people in the health region have received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Health-care workers on the verge of burnout are grateful for the sharp jump in vaccine registrations this week in B.C., and want to see it continue. 

Since Monday, the number of people registering for the vaccination program or booking appointments each day has jumped by as much as 201 per cent compared to a week earlier, according to a statement from the province. The biggest jumps, the government says, have been in people under the age of 40.

This was attributed to a new program officials announced Monday that will require proof of vaccination to do things like eat at a restaurant, see a movie in the theatre or take part in a fitness class in B.C.

For health-care workers like Dr. Matthew Chow, the president of Doctors of B.C., the uptick couldn't come sooner.

"If everyone was vaccinated right now, we wouldn't be seeing nearly as many people in the intensive care unit or the hospital. We wouldn't see nearly as much community transmission and that would take a significant load off of our health-care workers," Chow said. 

"It's just terribly, terribly frustrating and contributes to people's fatigue and burnout."

As of Friday, 83.9 per cent of those 12 and older in B.C. had received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 75.8 per cent a second dose.

'People are getting tired'

The vast majority of new COVID-19 cases are among unvaccinated British Columbians. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that unvaccinated people currently account for about 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 93 per cent of hospitalizations. On Friday, B.C. recorded its highest number of new cases since April 13.

Chow says health-care worker burnout is looming — especially when so many of the cases and their severity could have been prevented with a vaccine.

"We've been doing this for 18 months. Folks are getting tired. It's not unusual to see staffing shortages. All of us are professionals. We all put in 100, 110 per cent, but after 18 months of it, people are getting tired," Chow said. 

"These are folks for whom vaccines have been readily available, free of charge, advertised left, right and centre for months and months. And they've chosen not to be vaccinated and now they're in the intensive care unit and they're needing oxygen and it's just terribly, terribly frustrating and contributes to people's fatigue and burnout."

Professor Scott Lear with Simon Fraser University's faculty of health sciences says the vaccine card is a good strategy to help nudge people who were otherwise delaying their vaccine to get registered.

"Until our health is threatened in front of us, we tend to take it for granted," Lear said. 

"The idea we'll be missing out on some of these social activities — maybe the friends, the entertainment — that's kind of a loss ... and getting the vaccine is to avert that loss." 

He says more can be done to convince others to get the jab, like increasing pop-up clinics, spreading the word through peer networks, or even using game apps to reach a younger demographic.

Chow said he hopes more British Columbians get vaccinated to take a significant load off the province's health-care workers.

"I think very, very few people in August of 2021 [thought] we'd still be you know, knee deep in this, still coping with what we're calling the fourth wave now," Chow said. 

"We need more people to get vaccinated. That's the bottom line."

With files from All Points West, On The Coast