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COVID town hall highlights vaccine hesitancy impacting Surrey multigenerational homes

Last Updated Apr 20, 2021 at 11:36 pm PDT

SURREY (NEWS 1130) — In a special town hall aimed at the South Asian community on Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix tackled vaccine hesitancy.

Throughout the pandemic, racialized communities have expressed their mistrust of the Canadian health care system, and more recently, BIPOC communities have been reluctant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

In a recent survey from Angus Reid, less than half of Canadians are willing to roll up their sleeves for the AstraZeneca vaccine, while 23 per cent said they would reject a dose if it was being offered to them.

The stat followed blood clot concerns and the changing guidance over who can receive AstraZeneca.

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However, in an address hosted in part by OMNI Punjabi, Henry and Dix say the best way to help stop the spread is to follow the COVID restrictions and take the vaccine that is offered to you.

“We have vaccines on our side, and the vaccines we have here are safe and effective and they work. And we’re going to be getting them out to as many people as possible in the next few weeks so that we can all have a summer again,” Henry said.

She added that she believes the AstraZeneca vaccine “has a bit of a bad rep” because of how it was marketed and because of the challenges it showed with the early studies. But she says, since then, “we’ve learned a lot about this vaccine.”

“We’ve learned a lot about how well it works, and one of the countries that I follow very closely is the UK, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is used a lot it’s used 50/50 with Pfizer vaccine. And some of the really important things that we’ve seen from what we from what’s happened in the UK from the studies that they’ve done is that a single dose of Astra Zeneca is equally effective as a single dose of Pfizer. And it’s in the high 80’s to prevent people from getting seriously ill, to prevent people from being in hospital. So this vaccine works and it works well.”

In mid-April, Health Canada said a new and extremely rare blood clotting syndrome may be linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine, but the agency said the benefits of the shot far outweighed any risks.

The agency said there is no evidence showing certain people are more at risk than others and the vaccine will remain authorized for all adults in Canada.

“Maybe four in a million people have that [blood clot] young people are ending up in the hospital right now, and that gets higher the older you get. So this vaccine the AstraZeneca vaccine that we have and what we have right now is from the U.S., it is an excellent vaccine. It protects people, and we need people to get the vaccine that’s available to them right now,” Henry said.

She adds that some South Asian families living in multi-generation households have higher chances of spreading the virus quickly and sending both seniors and younger people to the hospital.

“I want to remind everyone that when your time comes to be vaccinated, it’s important to go and get the vaccine that’s provided for you,” Dix said, adding he understands it’s been a long year but is reminding people this is a crucial time for the region and the province.

“We have an end in sight to the worst part of this pandemic, but we’re not there yet … These next few weeks, we need all of us to get together and keep doing what we need to do.

“That means staying apart from others, keeping your bubble small, sticking with your family, knowing that if you have to go to work that you keep those safety practices at work and you don’t bring this back,” Henry added.

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Throughout the pandemic, the Fraser Health region along with Vancouver Coastal Health has been recorded a substantial portion of the daily COVID-19 case counts. Tuesday alone, Fraser Health reported 474 infections out of the 849 cases counted in the province.B.C. records 849 COVID-19 cases, one death as high transmission stresses health care system

And nearly half of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the Fraser Health region are at Surrey Memorial — which is also the site of a new outbreak.

Fraser Health CEO, Dr. Victoria Lee, told NEWS 1130 most hospitals are now at 96 per cent capacity and up to 70 surgeries across the region have been postponed.

Fraser Health is now offering the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone older than 40 in high-risk areas where transmission rates remain high.

Key neighbourhoods of concern include Surrey’s West Newton, East Newton, Whalley, Panorama, North Surrey, and Fleetwood.

– With files from Miranda Fatur, Michael Ranger and Marcella Bernardo