VICTORIA — British Columbia's health minister says there's been a lot of attention paid to the new Omicron COVID-19 variant, but the focus should remain on the Delta variant because it continues to have a "profound impact" on people who are not vaccinated in the province.
Adrian Dix said the Delta variant is disproportionately affecting those who haven't been vaccinated, including most of the more than 150 people who have been moved from the Northern Health authority to southern hospitals.
The transfers are weighing down the health-care system because many of those people are in critical condition and require teams of health-care workers at every stage of their transport,Dix said during a separate news conference announcing the opening of a new urgent primary care centre in Cranbrook.
"We don't need Omicron to tell us to be cautious over Christmas. We just need to look at the Delta variant, which is here now and has a profound effect on all of us," he said Monday. "This is a time when you should be concerned with the vaccination status of those around you and ensure that you stay safe right now."
More than 50 per cent of people over 70 have received their booster shots, which equates to about 500,000 doses, the minister said.
Nearly 40 per cent of children aged five to 11 have been registered for their first vaccine and about 84 per cent of those who have registered have received an invitation to book a shot.
"We're pleased with how it's going. We’re immunizing a lot of children and there's going to be a lot more as we go forward," Dix said. "I want to encourage all parents to register their children because that's important."
He said about 216 pharmacies across B.C. are currently administering COVID-19 immunizations, and that number will increase to about 1,000 by January.
"That's going to obviously increase our capacity and the number of immunizations we're going to have to give based on our strategy," he said. "When you add 1,000 locations, that presents supply chain challenges and we're dealing with those, but it does allow our also our public clinics to focus on children … and meet the challenge of immunizing the 349,000 children from five to 11 who are eligible."
Dix also said the announcement that pharmaceutical giant Merck is making an oral COVID-19 antiviral pill in Canada is good news because it will help those with moderate to severe symptoms, but it still shouldn't replace a vaccination.
"It'll be another tool in our arsenal once it's made generally available to us and we're very hopeful. That said, what we have to continue to do is to increase our vaccination program."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2021.
The Canadian Press