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B.C. needs to focus on COVID vaccinations as fourth wave driven by Delta looms

People receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto on Sunday, June 27, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

A COVID-19 modelling researcher says British Columbians need to remain diligent, especially with the Delta variant

Expert says B.C. should focus on getting people who have not yet received a shot vaccinated

B.C., other authorities will need to shift their strategies if cases creep up again, say experts

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A COVID-19 modelling expert warns B.C. could face another emergency situation if people get too lax about pandemic precautions.

Sarah Otto, a modelling researcher at UBC, says British Columbians need to remain diligent, especially with the Delta variant around.

“I think we are starting another wave and this other wave is due to a rise largely in Delta cases, in communities especially that have lower vaccination rates. We’re seeing that echo what is found in the U.K., throughout Europe, and in the United States as well,” she explained.

Otto says the recent rise in case numbers — particularly in the B.C. Interior — suggests infection rates are growing five-fold in communities where only around 70 per cent of population has received one dose.

“That’s just how big a difference it can make if your community is well vaccinated or not well vaccinated. And I think that helps frame it as you do it for your neighbours, get vaccinated for your neighbours, because that is helping to protect everybody,” she told NEWS 1130.

This echoes a point made by Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a leading infectious diseases expert, just last week. Bogoch said a fourth wave is inevitable in Canada — but how large it will be is dependent on vaccination rates.

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He said “there’s always risks involved” when restrictions are eased, and that it’s important officials and governments continue to monitor the situation closely, adding they will need to “have the ability to pivot” should the situation take a turn.

Otto says with bigger events now taking place, we need to keep an eye on what happens.

“We’re going to have to play it touch and go — a little bit forward, a little bit back — in the next little while. Even though the emergency orders got lifted at the beginning of July, people did not go back to everything is normal. Actually, people are still being cautious,” she said. “As we open up, we’re going to have to find that level that can keep case numbers under control.”

She says a recent creeping up of COVID-19 cases shows we likely need to make a change to what we’re doing if we want to prevent a large increase in Delta infections.

“That can be done in very targeted ways by targeting communities that have lower vaccination levels and just making it really easy and really approachable, bringing vaccines to people where they’re working, where they’re living, and opening up those conversations about this is really one of the safest vaccines that we’ve ever had,” Otto added.

B.C. reported 112 new infections on Friday, with more than half coming from the Interior Health region. Those numbers were triple what we were seeing in the province just a week ago.