With COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. rising to the highest level since May, the provincial government revealed details of its vaccine pass program on September 7.
The program is aimed at increasing vaccinations, thereby limiting the spread of COVID-19, as well as infections serious enough to need hospital care.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry called the vaccine cards "an incentive for people to be immunized," and "a nudge" to encourage people who are willing to be vaccinated but have not because they lead busy lives.
There are now 255 people fighting COVID-19 in B.C. hospitals, with 126 of those in intensive care units (ICUs). Hospitalizations have not been that high since May 28, with ICU patient levels being the highest since May 18.
No new data was immediately provided that provided a breakdown for how many of those hospitalized were vaccinated, or unvaccinated.
The most recent government data on vaccination status noted that, between August 24 and 31, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 79% of cases, and 84% of hospitalizations.
The 4,861 cases in the week ended August 31 included:
• 3,345 (68.8%) unvaccinated;
• 496 (10.2%) partially vaccinated; and
• 1,020 (21%) fully vaccinated.
Of the 268 hospitalizations in the two weeks ended August 31, there were:
• 203 not vaccinated (75.7%);
• 22 partially vaccinated (8.2%); and
• 43 fully vaccinated (16%).
The government also did not provide an age breakdown of new cases or hospitalizations.
Health officials said September 7 that they had detected 2,425 new COVID-19 infections in the past four days, for a pandemic total of 170,750. Active infections fell by 407, compared with the last data update on September 3, and is now 5,465.
The new infections included:
• 695 on September 4;
• 634 on September 5;
• 563 on September 6; and
• 533 on September 7.
Another 15 people have lost their lives to the disease, raising the province's pandeic death toll to 1,842.
By health region, the deaths included:
• three in Fraser Health;
• two in Vancouver Coastal Health;
• six in Interior Health; and
• four in Island Health.
Almost 95.5%, or 163,062 of those infected in B.C. are deemed by the province to have recovered because they have gone 10 days after first feeling symptoms, and are therefore not thought to be infectious.
Starting September 13, a wide range of non-essential businesses will start requiring customers to show proof that they have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in order to be eligible to enter. Grocers and fast food restaurants are some of the businesses that will not require the passes.
British Columbians can get their digital vaccine card by filling out an online form at gov.bc.ca/vaccinecard. If an eligible person does not have access to the Internet, they can call 1-833-838-2323 to have the government mail them a paper copy of their proof of vaccination.
Adopting these cards has been controversial, with a large protest taking place last week outside Vancouver General Hospital and Vancouver city hall.
Premier John Horgan said September 7, however, that the passes are needed because "the COVID-19 fourth wave is confined largely to those who have not been vaccinated."
Indeed, government data from mid-to-late August show that people who are unvaccinated are:
• 12 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses;
• 34 times more likely to land in hospital with COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses; and
• eight times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses.
"This is not about restricting people's rights," Horgan said. "This is about giving more rights to those who've taken steps to protect themselves."
Horgan also stressed that his government is taking this new measure after conducting what he called "extraordinary consultation with industry."
Health Minister Adrian Dix added that the main reason his government is implementing the passes is to encourage people to get vaccinated. On that front, he said September 7, the initiative has been a success.
"Since we announced the BC vaccine card coming, what we've seen is a significant increase in [vaccine shot] registrations," Dix said.
He praised what he said were 85.1% of eligible British Columbians who have already received one dose of vaccine, and the 77.6% of those people who are now fully vaccinated.
The average number of daily vaccinations, however, has fallen off a cliff – in part because the vast majority of residents are already vaccinated.
In the past four days, health officials provided British Columbians a total of 36,728 vaccine jabs, or an average of 9,182 in each of the past four days. Of those, 14,640 went to unvaccinated people, while 22,088 went to those needing second doses.
Of the 3,943,729 B.C. residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, nearly 91.2%, or 3,594,929 are fully vaccinated.
The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so that means that 76.6% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and 69.8% of the province's total population has had two doses.
Glacier Media crunched the numbers for how many of the 2,425 cases identified in the past four days were in each of the province's health regions. The result for the number of new infections for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) was:
• 3.9 in Fraser Health (705);
• 2.9 in Vancouver Coastal Health (368);
• 11.3 in Interior Health (838);
• 10.4 in Northern Health (312); and
• 2.4 in Island Health (202).
No new cases were in people who normally reside outside B.C.
The result by health region for the 5,465 people fighting active infections for each 10,000 residents (with total new cases in brackets) was:
• 8.5 in Fraser Health (1,530);
• 8.1 in Vancouver Coastal Health (1.010);
• 23.1 in Interior Health (1,714);
• 23.4 in Northern Health (703); and
• 5.9 in Island Health (501).
The active case counts include seven people who normally live outside B.C.
Three new health-care facility outbreaks at healthcare facilities or seniors' homes include:
• Louis Brier Home and Hospital in Vancouver;
• The Hamlets at Westsyde in Kamloops; and
• Joseph Creek Care Village in Cranbrook.
In total, B.C. has 21 active outbreaks at healthcare facilities or seniors' homes.