COVID-19 in B.C.: Pregnancy and vaccinations; Northern Health concerns; and more

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      Today, active cases decreased in all regions except for Interior Health.

      For the second time over the past week, Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) is reporting the lowest number of new cases out of the five health regions, and active cases continue to decline in the region as well.

      Although VCH frequently followed behind Fraser Health for case numbers during much of the pandemic, case levels in VCH are lowering to levels somewhat closer to Island Health. Fraser Health is continuing to report the most new and active cases. 

      At today’s B.C. COVID-19 briefing, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed a number of issues, including some frequently asked questions.

      Pregnancies and vaccinations

      Henry said that all of the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are “not only safe but recommended for people who are pregnant, people who are thinking of getting pregnant, and people who are breastfeeding”.

      She said that over 90,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated in the U.S., a recent study did not find any major side effects, and that safety data has shown that pregnant people have the same mild side effects as others and no increased risk of pregnancy complications or neonatal outcomes.

      What was found, she said, is that there in increased risk for severe illness, requiring hospitalization, for pregnant people who remain unvaccinated, based on both B.C. and international data.

      She said there were “significantly worse levels of severe disease…and higher rates of adverse infant out comes”, including stillbirths and preterm births.

      In addition, she said she is frequently asked if people who have been previously infected with COVID-19 need to get vaccinated.

      She explained that, based upon studies of immune system responses, antibody levels after infection “can be very varied” and inconsistent. As examples, she said some people may not develop longterm immunity and others who have a mild illness may not have a strong immune system response.

      Self-isolation change

      Henry said that something that has changed is that because “the risk of spread to and from someone who is immunized is much lower” than those who aren’t immunized, vaccinated contacts of an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 no longer need to self-isolate.

      Nonetheless, she emphasized that these vaccinated contacts must still self-monitor and must immediately isolate if symptoms develop.

      Northern Health concerns

      Earlier this month, B.C. health officials addressed surging case numbers in Northern Health.

      Today, Dix followed up by providing details about how the region is lagging behind in immunization rates.

      He said that in Northern Health, 75 percent of those 12 years old and above have received their first dose and only 65 percent have their second dose.

      However, he pointed out that there are differences in immunization levels within the region itself.

      For example, he said there are high vaccinations levels in locations such as Kitimat (95 percent), Haida Gwaii, Nisga’a, Prince Rupert, and Terrace, and that there are lower levels of COVID-19 infections occurring in these areas.

      However, he said that in the Northeast region, only 61.2 percent have received their first dose while 50.5 percent are fully vaccinated.

      Over the past week, he said that Northern Health averaged 41 new cases per 100,000 population in comparison to 19 in Interior Health, 11 in Fraser Health, nine in Island Health, and seven in Vancouver Coastal Health.

      “These exceptionally high case rates are translating into hospitalizations and putting significant pressure on ICU [intensive care units] capacity and health workers,” he said. “The North is being overstretched by COVID-19 and overstretched by the fact that we are not meeting…our vaccination goals in Northern Health.”

      Accordingly, he emphasized the need for everyone in the region to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      B.C. update: September 21

      Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 525 new COVID-19 cases, but also stated that today's numbers of total and new cases are provisional due to a delayed data refresh.

      Currently, there are 5,282 active COVID-19 cases, which is a drop of 326 cases since yesterday.

      The new and active cases include:

      • 187 new cases in Fraser Health, with 1,711 total active cases (21 more cases than yesterday);
      • 147 new cases in Interior Health, with 1,167 total active cases (16 fewer cases than yesterday);
      • 79 new cases in Northern Health, with 921 total active cases (116 fewer cases);
      • 61 new cases in Island Health, with 619 total active cases (42 fewer cases);
      • 51 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 822 total active cases (166 fewer cases);
      • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with 42 total active cases.*

      * The B.C. Health Ministry explained that the significant jump in numbers for people who reside out of Canada is due to a data cleanup. Some cases that were previously reported as Vancouver Coastal Health residents have since been identified as individuals who normally reside outside of Canada.

      As of today, there are 332 individuals in hospitals (an increase of 25 cases since yesterday), and 155 of those patients are in intensive care units (one fewer than yesterday).

      With 855 recoveries since yesterday, there is now an overall total of 172,624 people who tested positive have recovered.

      Sadly, one new death (in Vancouver Coastal Health) has been reported. B.C. has recorded an overall total number of 1,900 people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons.

      During the pandemic, B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 180,178 COVID-19 cases.


      Since December, B.C. has administered 7,725,586 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

      As of today, 87 percent (4,031,909) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose of vaccine and 79.5 percent (3,685,799) received their second dose.

      In addition, 87.5 percent (3,785,801) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 80.4 percent (3,476,203) received their second dose.

      People not fully vaccinated accounted for 76.1 percent of cases from September 13 to 19 and they accounted for 84.7 percent of hospitalizations from September 6 to 19.

      Out of a total of 4,367 COVID-19 cases from September 13 to 19, there were:

      • 2,982 unvaccinated people (68.3 percent);
      • 340 partially vaccinated people (7.8 percent);
      • 1,045 fully vaccinated people (23.9 percent).

      Out of a total of 353 hospitalized cases from September 6 to 19, there were:

      • 279 unvaccinated people (79 percent);
      • 20 partially vaccinated people (5.7 percent);
      • 54 fully vaccinated people (15.3 percent).

      For cases per 100,000 population (after adjusting for age) from September 13 to 19, there were:

      • 290.3 unvaccinated people;
      • 87.2 partially vaccinated people;
      • 26.3 fully vaccinated people.

      Past two weeks, cases hospitalized per 100,000 population after adjusting for age (Sept. 6-19)

      • 39.8 unvaccinated people;
      • 8.2 partially vaccinated people;
      • 1.2 fully vaccinated people.

      After factoring for age, people not vaccinated are 33.1 times more likely to be hospitalized than those fully vaccinated.

      Outbreaks and exposures

      The B.C. Health Ministry stated that Island Health has declared new healthcare facility outbreak at Victoria Chinatown Care Centre.

      Currently, there are 22 active outbreaks at healthcare facilities, including:

      • longterm care: Northcrest Care Centre, Westminster House, and Menno Terrace East (Fraser Health); Arbutus Care Centre, Louis Brier Home and Hospital (Vancouver Coastal Health); Village at Mill Creek, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Brookhaven Care Centre, Spring Valley Care Centre, Kamloops Seniors Village, Hillside Village, The Hamlets at Westsyde, Joseph Creek Care Village, and Overlander (Interior Health); Jubilee Lodge (Northern Health); and Victoria Chinatown Care Centre (Island Health);
      • acute care: Chilliwack General Hospital (Fraser Health); Fort St. John Hospital (Northern Health); and Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (Interior Health);
      • assisted or independent living: David Lloyd Jones, Sun Pointe Village, and Hardy View Lodge (Interior Health).

      The B.C. Centre for Disease Control added the following five flights to its lists of potential public exposures:

      • September 5: WestJet 3169, Calgary to Victoria;
      • September 14: Air Canada 860, Vancouver to London;
      • September 14: British Airways 84, Vancouver to London;
      • September 15: WestJet 3339, Edmonton to Comox;
      • September 16: Swoop163, Winnipeg to Abbotsford. 
      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.