VICTORIA — COVID-19 outbreaks in pockets around British Columbia have prompted health officials to shorten their recommended delay between vaccinations by three weeks.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the change Monday, saying reducing the interval from 49 days to 28 will help boost the level of community protection in areas of the province that are experiencing outbreaks.
Notices will be sent out to about 170,000 people in the coming days, asking them to book their second-dose appointment.
The optimal time to wait for the second shot is six to 10 weeks for stronger protection, but that must be balanced with the risk of getting COVID-19 during the interval, said Henry, adding those who aren't in risky jobs or in a current hot spot may want to wait longer than 28 days.
"Over time, it may turn out that waiting even longer is better protection," she said.
"I am very confident that two doses, from the evidence that we see, still provide very high protection, though we know that for some people their immune systems may not respond as well. That's why it's important for all of us in the community to have as much protection as possible."
More restrictions were imposed last week due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in central Okanagan in the Interior Health region, shutting down bars and nightclubs, and limiting liquor sales and gathering sizes.
The province reported 1,079 new cases over a three-day period ending Monday, with more than half of them located in the Interior region. There were also five more deaths over the same period, pushing the death toll to 1,777.
More than 70 per cent of those 12 years and up in the province are fully vaccinated, leaving more than 830,000 who have not had their shots.
There are 68 people in hospital, including 20 in intensive care.
Henry said most of the latest COVID-19 infections are among unvaccinated people, but when the more infectious Delta variant gets into high-risk settings, such as care homes, it can spread rapidly to those who are immunized.
"We are seeing, for the most part, milder illness in people who are fully vaccinated, which is residents."
The risk of passing on COVID-19 in people who are immunized is much lower, Henry added.
There are seven outbreaks in long-term care homes in the province, four of them in the Interior Health region.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2021.
The Canadian Press