British Columbia

Convenience, confidence and complacency: Why some formerly hesitant people are now getting vaccinated

First timers tell CBC it was not the vaccine card that changed their mind but a myriad of other factors including: the rising death toll of the Delta variant, the advice of their personal care providers and expedited wait-times for vaccinations.

Data shows first time doses increased after B.C. announced vaccine passports, but have since tapered off

Ajit Johal, B.C. Pharmacy Association board director, says people of all ages have gotten vaccinated since the government announced vaccination passports, but that he's especially noticed an uptick in 'young cohorts.' (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Glen Humchitt is the first to admit he was "hesitant" to get his COVID-19 vaccine.

"I've heard about people passing away and getting really sick," said the 47-year-old carpenter. "That scared me but seeing the death rate go up again, and a lot of people getting sick made me want to get it."

Humchitt, who received his first dose of the vaccine in September, was one of dozens to line up outside Vancouver's Italian Cultural Centre to receive their shot — some six months after vaccine registrations first opened in B.C.

In August, the provincial government announced that proof of at least partial vaccination — also known as "vaccine passports" — would be required to access several non-essential settings starting Sept. 13, with proof of two doses being required by Oct. 24.

Experts say they saw an increase in first dose vaccinations following the announcement, suggesting a mandate was the right move.

Outside the vaccine clinic, however, first timers tell CBC it was not the mandate that changed their mind but a myriad of other factors, including the rising death toll of the Delta variant, the advice of their personal care providers, and increasingly expedited wait-times for vaccinations.

For better or worse, there's also the influence of anecdotal information, as unvaccinated people continue to account for an overwhelming majority of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations.

"I had a friend in Alberta, he was in a coma for three weeks and he just came out of it as a result of not getting the shot," said Humchitt.

Surge in shots appears shortlived

To date, 88.8 per cent of eligible British Columbians age 12 and older have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

From when the vaccine card was first announced to when it took effect, the rolling average of those getting their first shots spiked, peaking at around 7,000 people.

 

Ministry of Health data shows, however, that the surge has slowed dramatically in recent weeks, with around 4,000 people receiving their first dose on Oct. 3, below the rate the province was at when it announced the card.

B.C. Pharmacy Association board director Ajit Johal says, since the announcement, he's noticed young people "predominantly" getting vaccinated. 

Preetinder Singh is seen receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Vancouver. Singh says he hesitated to get the vaccine because he was travelling to India and was unable to schedule his shot due to long wait-times. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

He thinks vaccine cards played a part but says hesitancy can be informed by several factors, including confidence in the medical system, convenience of access and simple complacency.

"They didn't want to get themselves sick. They were reading things on the internet," said Johal "They also felt that the whole thing was blown out of proportion."

The recent uptick also appears to have benefited men more than women, with 24.8 per cent of men aged 18-29 receiving their first dose since July 12, compared to 20.8 per cent of women.

Health-care providers may persuade holdouts

Despite the recent gains, however, it remains unclear if, or how, one might appeal to those who simply refuse to get vaccinated.

UBC pediatrics professor Julie Bettinger says policies that "nudge" individuals toward acceptance are helpful, but that some patients may require a personal touch.

"You really need to have health-care providers who feel comfortable talking about [vaccines], who are willing to have open, non-judgmental conversations with those individuals and really try to understand where they're coming from," said Bettinger, acknowledging that many British Columbians had trouble finding a family doctor even before the pandemic.

"There are a lot of people out there who have had bad experiences with the health-care system and who don't trust it."

Retiree Rudy Borsato tells CBC about one such conversation he had.

Rudy Borsato, 68, says he thought really hard about whether to get vaccinated, because of some of the 'weird stories' he had heard about the vaccine. He says he was convinced after a conversation with his doctor. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

The 68-year-old says he had been willing to give up restaurants and other non-essential activities as he deliberated whether to get his shot, until his doctor convinced him otherwise.

"He said it's quite safe — so I'll take his word for it," said Borsato. "If it makes [life] easier with a [vaccine] card then why not?"

With files from Belle Puri, Justin McElroy and Liam Britten

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