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Doctor Henry says unvaccinated people 12 times more likely to end up hospitalized with COVID-19

(With files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)

Hospitalization stays for COVID-19 patients in BC who have contracted the Omicron variant are staying half as long on average compared to Delta.

Dr. Bonnie Henry noted today (Friday) the average length of stay for patients in the hospital was just three days for those with Omicron and six with Delta.

In addition, 47% of all hospitalizations in the province between December 14th and January 10th were unvaccinated.

The modelling also pointed out nearly 70% of people in critical care over the past month aren’t protected through vaccination. Roughly two-thirds of all deaths in the same time frame were also unvaccinated.

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Henry believes we’ll be in a much better place in terms of living with the virus once this wave is over.

“We are going to have a level of immunity that is much higher than we had after Delta. It’s going to be a tough couple of weeks but I do think once we come through this, the oscillations are going to get smaller.”

“I’ve been fussing about the six months for most people for the booster dose because that is stronger, longer-lasting protection for what comes next, that combination I believe is going to be well on the way for us when it comes to living with this virus in the future.”

Henry expects hospitalizations to peak next week (January 15th to 22).

In addition, BC’s top doctor noted there has been a sharp uptick in pediatric cases.

1,026 new infections in children under five with nine new hospitalizations reported in the past week.

Furthermore, 1,033 new cases have been tallied for those aged 5-11.

When asked why mass vaccinations clinics aren’t being done during school hours, Henry noted there’s a simple reason for this.

“There not ones that are well attended. They take a lot of time to set up and we use schools as places for clinics after hours and on the weekends where parents come in with their children and particularly for that 5-11 age group we have heard from parents that they want to be with their child.”

“And so, having school-based clinics during school time is very energy-intensive and we have had very low uptake.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix noted 192,706 children between the ages of 5-11 have been registered to get their vaccine. Of that total, 155,746 vaccines have been administered to youth so far.

Much like the rest of Canada, Omicron has become the dominant COVID-19 strain in BC.

While the vast majority of health authorities have seen significant spikes, Northern Health at this point has lagged behind.

Henry explained why that may be the case.

“Part of it is travel patterns, part of it is related to weather events meaning people aren’t moving around as much. I think we are starting to see it a little bit more in those communities and spreading fast, the absolute numbers of cases are still creeping up in the north.”

The data also suggests those over the age of 70 are more likely to go to the hospital with COVID-19 than any other age group.

“There have been more exposures as age is still the most important risk factor. Even if you are vaccinated, you definitely need your booster shot and you need to be careful right now because there is a lot of virus out there.”

“I would not be going to those higher-risk settings, even if I were vaccinated,” added Henry.

If you are unvaccinated in any age group, you are 12 times more likely to end up in the hospital, 27 times more likely to end up in ICU, and 40 times higher to die from the virus.

The province also announced a change in how hospitalizations are going to be reported from here on in.

Henry noted it will include everyone in the hospital with a positive case ranging from those coming into the hospital with COVID-19 or testing positive for the virus at any point during a hospital stay.

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