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Anti-COVID vaccine leaflets left on vehicles at Royal Jubilee Hospital

Information in the pamphlet is not true

Anti-vaccine leaflets claiming COVID-19 immunizations are experimental and unsafe were left on vehicles parked at Royal Jubilee Hospital on Tuesday.

Staff came out to find the material produced by a group calling itself Children’s Health Defense Canada slipped under their windshield wipers. Children’s Health Defense is a U.S. organization based in New Jersey and fronted by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

The literature says “before getting a COVID-19 vaccine you need to know that this vaccine is EXPERIMENTAL as it is NOT APPROVED for use in Canada,” which is false. Six COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in Canada.

A health-care professional who found the literature under her windshield did not want her name used but expressed disappointment at the false information and affront to health-care workers — the large majority of whom are vaccinated and trying to treat COVID-19 patients.

Mike Benusic, lead medical health officer on immunization for Island Health, said he could understand some people being hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines when they were first approved in Canada, but now there’s a wealth of lived experience, data and science showing how well they work.

“Now that we’re in June of 2022, where we’ve had these vaccines for one and a half years now, we have so much information regarding every single aspect of COVID-19 vaccines that to say that they’re experimental, I think really goes against [science],” said Benusic.

About 92 per cent of adults in the Island Health region have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, said Benusic.

Serious adverse responses to COVID-19 vaccines in B.C. remain extremely rare. As of March 19, there were 11.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in B.C. and 5,600 adverse events reported — 49 per 100,000, said Benusic.

It remains important— especially for those age 70 and older — to get vaccinated with two shots followed by a booster, as COVID-19 continues to circulate, said Benusic.

“We still do continue to see that that small proportion of people who are unvaccinated have disproportionately higher rates of severe harm from COVID.”

Someone age 90 or older who is not vaccinated and is infected with COVID-19 has a 30 per cent risk of death, he said.

Unlike other vaccines that prevent infection, the COVID-19 vaccine only reduces the chance of infection but its main purpose is to prevent serious illness and death, he said.

The province is trying to reach just over one million people eligible for booster shots, or their third shot, who have not yet had them. “That second booster can help reduce that risk even further and help prepare for COVID-19, which isn’t going away anytime soon.”

Some who want a fourth shot are confused why they can’t have one, unlike in Ontario. Benusic said fourth shots are available for people age 70 and over and those in long-term care, as outlined in the B.C. Centre For Disease Control immunization manual.

Those who are designated clinically extremely vulnerable or severely immunocompromised — for example, a patient undergoing chemotherapy — can also receive a fourth shot. If that vulnerable person is age 70 or older, they would be eligible for a fifth shot.

Ontario has been offering fourth doses to the vulnerable since December 2021 and in April, opened fourth doses up to people age 60 and older as well as First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 and older.

Benusic said although the risk of an adverse event from COVID-19 vaccines is “very very low,” if the benefit of a fourth booster in people in their 60s, for instance, isn’t high, it may not outweigh the risk.

As well, theoretically, there’s a concept of immune imprinting, he said, where if the same vaccine is given over and over, it might lessen a person’s response to a modified version of the same virus.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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