SUBMITTED BY DR. DAVID BUTCHER
Lady Minto Hospital Medical Staff Association
As spring days bring beautiful weather and Easter weekend brings hope of new beginnings, we need to remind ourselves that COVID continues to be a real and present health risk in our community.
The start of the COVID vaccination program has brought new hope for the end of the pandemic. However, some troubling trends are developing in Island Health’s fight against COVID-19. All three variants of concern have now been identified in Island Health. The number of variant cases across Vancouver Island are increasing. Contact tracing has shown that the variant cases were brought to the Island Health region through non-essential travel to other areas of B.C. and beyond. Public health teams have also noted a significant jump in the number of close contacts for COVID cases.
On Salt Spring, we have not had any major outbreaks since the start of the pandemic. However we have had, and continue to have, the ongoing presence of COVID in our community. The variants of concern are more transmissible, meaning that a shorter exposure, or exposure to a smaller number of viral particles, may lead to communication of the disease. These variants are also proving to cause more serious illness in younger people.
It is crucial that we continue to focus on the basics to prevent transmission – avoiding contact with others where possible, maintaining distance when in the presence of others, creating barriers to transmission by wearing masks covering the nose and mouth, and removing droplets through frequent hand washing and sanitization. Don’t travel unless it is essential so we can avoid the spread of virus between regions. These measures are as important now, if not more so, than at the beginning of the pandemic. Some people view these as issues of individual rights and freedoms but collectively they will limit the transmission and spread of the virus and help us end the pandemic.
The start of the provincial vaccination campaign is the bright ray of hope this spring. On Salt Spring, seniors in residential care have been vaccinated and seniors in the community are now rapidly being vaccinated. In the coming weeks we anticipate large-scale community vaccination clinics to meet the target of vaccination for all adults who choose to get vaccinated by the summer.
Although there is considerable media attention paid to stories about the safety and success rates of immunity of different vaccines, the reality is that all of the vaccines currently approved for use in Canada are highly effective at preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death. So, although vaccines may not be 100 per cent effective at preventing transmission, they are effective at keeping people from getting ill. As physicians, we unequivocally recommend getting vaccinated.
Recently, the province has announced a separate strategy to provide priority for vaccination to those individuals living with specific health conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness. These Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (CEV) individuals are identified through existing healthcare databases and can expect to be contacted by mail by April 15 to book their vaccination appointment. The list of conditions that are included in the identification of clinically vulnerable individuals can be found on the Ministry of Health, BC Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Island Health websites. If you do not receive a mailed notification by April 15 and believe you should be included in this initiative, you should follow the instructions on these websites and call to make sure you have not been missed. If you have, you can complete the registration by following the instructions on the website. You can contact your family doctor to complete the registration process if necessary after following the instructions.
Finally, as the Easter weekend approaches, let’s all appreciate the many blessings we on Salt Spring enjoy. Spring is a time for renewal. Let’s renew our commitment to each other and our community by redoubling our efforts to prevent transmission of COVID while the vaccine rollout continues.