Dr. Henry said increased protection measures like masking were not necessary over the spring and summer months due to low levels of respiratory viruses circulating, but noted those respiratory infections and hospitalization numbers are starting to increase.
She said about 40 per cent of people in the hospital testing positive for COVID are there because of that specific illness.
“We’ve had a bump up in the last few weeks because there’s been a few outbreaks and clusters and so we’ve been doing a lot of testing of people in hospital, so it’s a combination right now of people who are asymptomatic, people who have been in hospital for something else who got a COVID test that’s positive that we need to pay attention to, and for people who actually do have (just) COVID.”
Dr. Henry also said almost every person in B.C. now has some level of immunity from COVID-19, whether it be from vaccines, COVID-19 infections, or a combination of both.
“It never goes back to zero. We know we have this cell-mediated immunity or memory immunity, and once you have vaccinations or combinations of vaccinations and infections, that immunity is long-lasting, and we’re learning that now from studies that have been done over time.”
She said this “hybrid immunity” varies in effectiveness based on age groups and vaccine status, with younger people more likely to have a combination of vaccines and infections. Unvaccinated people who’ve been infected with COVID-19 at some point have far less immunity, which also wanes over time.
She reiterated a long-standing point throughout the pandemic, which is that “unvaccinated people remain most at risk for severe illness and hospitalizations.”
Routine vaccine boosters strengthen that immunity as COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses continue to mutate.
B.C.’s fall flu and COVID vaccine campaign starts on Oct. 10, with priority going once again to those most at risk.
British Columbians will have the option to get their COVID booster and flu vaccine at the same appointment this fall, Dr. Henry confirmed.
She said people should start receiving notifications they are due for another vaccine sometime after Thanksgiving.
Health Canada recently approved updated vaccines for the latest variants of COVID-19, and they will be available in B.C. soon.
Vaccines are available free for British Columbians six months of age or older.
You can watch the entire news conference here.
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