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Unvaccinated driving COVID-19 surge in B.C., new data show

Unvaccinated 34 times more likely to land in hospital than fully vaccinated, in mid-to-late August.
Adrian Dix - sign language
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix gestures during an August 31 press conference

B.C. government data released August 31 back up health officials' assertions that unvaccinated people are driving the province's fourth wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, with older people suffering the most severe consequences once infected.

The 187 COVID-19 patients now in B.C. hospitals is the highest total since June 9. Of those 103 people are in intensive care units (ICUs). Those wards have not been as filled with COVID-19 patients since May 21.

B.C. health officials detected 655 new COVID-19 infections in the past 24 hours, raising the number of those actively battling infections to 6,045. The Interior Health region remains the province's hot spot for new and active cases.

Two more individuals passed away overnight while infected with COVID-19, raising the province's pandemic death toll to 1,816.

Perhaps the most striking set of statistics includes data from mid-to-late August, which showed that people who are unvaccinated are:
• 12 times more likely to contract COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses;
• 34 times more likely to land in hospital with COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses; and
• eight times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those who have had two vaccine doses.

Data for that finding came from August 20 through 26 for cases, and August 17 though 23 for hospitalizations and deaths. 

The other key lesson in new government data is that older people continue to be more susceptible to serious bouts of COVID-19, and to die from the illness. The 80-to-90 age group saw 11 deaths between July 30 and August 26. The second highest age group for deaths was for those aged between 70 and 79 years, which had seven deaths. 

Data from July 30 through August 26 also showed that among people who were younger than 60 years old, no one who was fully vaccinated died from COVID-19. In contrast, among the partially vaccinated, there was one person younger than 60 years old who died from COVID-19 in that time period. That person was in the 40-to-49 age group.

Among the unvaccinated, there were six people who were younger than 60 years old who died from COVID-19 between July 30 and August 26. Of those, five were in the 50-to-59 age group, and one was in the 40-to-49 age group. This is despite most British Columbians being fully vaccinated during this time frame. 

Similar government data showed that new cases and hospitalizations were more likely among those who were unvaccinated. When fully vaccinated people did have serious bouts of COVID-19, it tended to be among older people. 

"This tells us that vaccines are working," said provincial health officer Bonnie Henry. "They're preventing thousands of cases and hospitalizations from occurring, because they are protecting people across the age spectrum. They're making a difference."

Both she and Health Minister Adrian Dix stressed that the rate that COVID-19 is now spreading is much too high. 

"We see fewer people in the hospital right now than we did at the height of the third wave, where I think it reached about 503," Dix said. "We're seeing that we're at about a third of that level. It has still put significant pressure on those [hospital systems] regionally."

Despite these heightened calls for people to get vaccinated, vaccinations have declined considerably. Part of the reason is that the vast majority of British Columbians are already fully vaccinated. Another is that large vaccination clinics, such as the one at the Vancouver Convention Centre, have closed. Smaller pop-up vaccination centres are increasingly being used. 

In the past 24 hours, health officials provided a total of 10,759 vaccine jabs, with 4,739 going to unvaccinated people, and 6,020 being to people needing second doses. The last time fewer total vaccine jabs were provided to British Columbians in a day was on March 9, when 10,041 of the 10,054 doses provided were to unvaccinated B.C. residents. 

Of the 3,908,860 B.C. residents who have received at least one dose of vaccine, nearly 90.8%, or 3,547,751, are fully vaccinated. 

The B.C. government estimated in July that the province's total population is 5,147,712, so that means that nearly 76% of B.C.'s total population has had at least one dose of vaccine, and more than 68.9% of the province's total population has had two doses.

The government's math holds that 84.3% of the province's eligible population, aged 12 years and older, has been vaccinated at least once, with 76.5% of eligible people being fully vaccinated. 

One new healthcare facility outbreak is at the Kamloops Seniors Village. There are 19 active outbreaks at healthcare facilities across B.C.

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