Over 92 per cent of care home and assisted living residents on the North Shore have received a COVID-19 vaccination.
That was among information released on Friday on rates of vaccination in seniors’ homes province-wide in B.C.
In the North Shore’s 14 seniors homes, vaccination rates ranged from a low of 84 per cent at West Vancouver Care Centre to 100 per cent at Amica’s Edgemont and Lions Gate seniors homes.
Care homes hit with recent outbreaks were among the first to receive vaccinations. Capilano Care Centre residents – hit with a COVID outbreak in November - got their first doses of vaccine on Christmas Eve. About 94 per cent of residents there were vaccinated.
Lynn Valley Care Centre – the first long term care home to have an outbreak of COVID-19 in the spring – had a vaccination rate among residents of 91 per cent.
When first doses of the vaccine were given, residents of Lynn Valley Care Centre who had previously contracted COVID-19 were not offered the vaccine, because it was determined they would still have some natural immunity to the virus. But that policy was later changed. Now all care home residents who caught the virus over three months ago will be offered the vaccine.
On Friday Dr. Réka Gustafson, B.C.'s deputy provincial health officer, described initial evidence about the vaccination campaign in seniors homes as “very encouraging. We are seeing a decline in outbreaks,” she said. Assessments have shown that the vaccines are working well in the elderly, she added. “This is a very important finding, because this is population at highest risk of severe illness. And it's not a population that always respond particularly well to vaccines.”
Some care home residents and staff on the North Shore have now received a second dose of the vaccine as well.
Next week, the province is also expected to provide more details about the rates of vaccination in care home staff.
Questions have been raised by some local families after a staff member at Inglewood Care Centre in West Vancouver became infected with COVID-19 this month, even though first doses of the vaccine – said to be over 90 per cent effective in 14 days – were offered at the facility at the beginning of January.
That case in a staff member was also not deemed an “outbreak” by Vancouver Coastal Health, although single cases in staff members have been declared outbreaks in some other health regions.
Constance McCormick, whose father lives at Inglewood, said she wonders whether it has been easy enough for staff to receive the vaccine or whether care staff who don’t get vaccinated should have their duties restricted. Those questions have also been raised by other family members with relatives in long-term care.
Vaccines are not mandatory to work in health care settings or long-term care homes, and some people have medical conditions in which vaccination is not recommended.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the province’s medical health officer, said last week that having the vast majority of people in long-term care vaccinated creates a form of “herd immunity” within the care home. “So if there's a small number of people who are not immunized and if it's a health-care worker, and they do become infected, the chances of them passing it on to any of the residents is now much, much lower because the residents themselves are protected.”
Vaccine uptake among long-term care workers has varied in the past.
According to reports produced by the B.C. Seniors Advocate, less than 40 per cent of care workers at Inglewood received a flu vaccine in 2019/2020. At other North Shore care homes, the proportion of care home staff who got flu vaccines ranged from about 60 to 70 per cent.
According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, up to Dec. 17, eight per cent of people infected with COVID were health care workers. Of those, 23 per cent were care aides and 17 per cent were nurses.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Friday people over 80 in B.C. can expect to receive their vaccinations in March. Those receiving home support or living in independent living facilities can expect to get a shot before March 15, he said. Others in the community over 80 can expect to receive a vaccine between March 15 and March 31.