BEING A GLASS-ONE-FIFTH-EMPTY kind of guy, I had to dampen the mood.
It came Friday as Island Health celebrated the injection of its millionth dose of COVID vaccine.
“Who would have thought that seven months ago we would be talking about a million doses being given on the Island?” asked Dr. Richard Stanwick, the region’s chief medical health officer. A year ago, they didn’t think they’d be launching a campaign until this coming September.
There was more good news: Only two new cases on Vancouver Island, and just one patient in hospital. The health region hasn’t recorded a COVID death since May 30. Seventy-eight per cent of those over age 12 have received a first dose and 48 per cent have been jabbed twice.
Which is where I stepped in. What about the one in five who, despite all the evidence, are still balking at getting a shot? If an office tower is ablaze, do you celebrate rescuing 78 per cent of the occupants, or do you wonder why the rest of them are happy to stay where they are with the flames licking around their toes?
Not so fast, Stanwick replied. Many among the unvaccinated will cross into the other column soon. “Many of them are just waiting to get in for their shots.” There are a bunch of people in lower-paid jobs whose schedules don’t mesh with a system that requires them to first register, then book an appointment, then show up at the right place and time, he noted.
Some other people are geographically isolated. Some are wrestling with anxiety or other psychological barriers that they need help to clear. Some are waiting to see if already-vaccinated people (and here I paraphrase) grow a second head.
And some just aren’t that worried about getting sick. Age is a factor: while 92 per cent of Islanders over age 70 have had at least one shot, just two-thirds of those between ages 12 and 29 have.
What will move the needle (as it were)? Stanwick spoke of changing the system over the next six weeks to remove the barriers, making access to vaccinations easier. “We really need to make it easy for them to get their first and second doses.”
Novel approaches are required. When the health authority set up a vaccination site in a Nanaimo mall, it was happy to find that 90 per cent of those who walked in were first-dosers and harder-to-reach males. Likewise, bringing a mobile unit to a beach on a hot day proved successful. “In addition to sunscreen, we were offering vaccine,” Stanwick said.
He expects other factors will help push vaccination rates toward the 85 per cent target. Some people will be more willing to get shots when they realize doing so will guard those they love, that the best way to protect children under 12 is to vaccinate their parents. Self-interest will come into play, too, as people find being unvaccinated blocks travel and work opportunities.
When all is said and done, Stanwick figures there’s probably five to eight per cent of the population that will refuse to be vaccinated.
The focus now is on the rest. “To get this next 15 per cent of people may take as much energy as it took to get the first 50 per cent.”
Another sign a federal election is coming this fall: Two members of Justin Trudeau’s cabinet — Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra — made environment-related announcements in B.C. on Friday.
Qualtrough joined Premier John Horgan, B.C. Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon and Shell Canada’s Susannah Pierce in announcing a centre for innovation and clean energy. Ottawa, the province and Shell each committed $35 million.
Alghabra’s Lower Mainland appearance was less substantive. He unveiled another $1.5 million for the removal of abandoned vessels, and lauded the second anniversary of the passage of legislation banning oil tankers from B.C.’s north coast. Noteworthy was the presence of representatives of coastal First Nations, praising the feds’ collaborative efforts.
After the heat dome and Lytton and yet another smoke-choked summer, expect climate change and the environment to play a more prominent role in the coming campaign, at least in B.C. Parties will be racing to stake out political real estate.