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Vaccination key to reducing COVID risk in B.C. schools: BCCDC report

But fewer than 40% of elementary-school-aged children in B.C. are fully vaccinated.
Child COVID vaccine
Fewer than 40% of elementary-school-aged children in B.C. are fully vaccinated against COVID. The new BCCDC Situation Report for K-12 stresses the importance of vaccination to reduce the risk in schools.

Vaccination is key to reducing risk in B.C. schools, according to a B.C. Centre for Disease Control report – but fewer than 40% of elementary-school-aged children in the province are fully vaccinated against COVID.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control's newly posted Situation Report for K-12 schools highlights the importance of vaccination in keeping schools safe, as students have returned to masks-optional classrooms following March break.

"Increasing COVID-19 vaccine coverage among all eligible individuals remains the most effective strategy to reduce the risk in K-12 schools for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year," says the March 2022 report, posted on April 7. "Not only does vaccination help protect the individual, particularly against severe outcomes, it can also help protect others in the community who are not able to be vaccinated."

Vaccination rates remain low for elementary-school-aged children, however.

B.C.-wide, just 56% of five-to-11-year-olds have received one dose of vaccine, while 39% have received their full two doses.

Pediatric vaccination rates vary widely across the province, with the Northern and Interior health regions having much lower vaccination rates than Vancouver Coastal Health and Island Health. Fraser Health (which spans from Burnaby to Hope and surrounding territory) has seen mixed results, with urban areas such as New Westminster and Burnaby having much higher rates than Hope and Agassiz/Harrison.

Among 12-to-17-year-olds, provincewide vaccination rates are significantly higher: 89% with one dose, 86% with two doses, and 34% with three doses. (The third dose, or booster shot, is not being offered to the younger children.)

Preschool-aged children (0 to 4) are not yet eligible for any vaccines.

How serious is COVID in children?: Hospitalization, critical care stats for B.C.

The Situation Report shows that, since the beginning of the 2021/22 school year (as of Sept. 7), 414 children across the province have been hospitalized for COVID. Of those, 198 are of school age: 119 aged 12 to 17, and 79 aged five to 11. The remaining 216 were in the 0-4 age group.

Thirty-nine of the cases in school-aged children have happened in the latest reporting period (Feb. 16 to March 29): 13 aged five to 11, and 26 aged 12 to 17. In the same time frame, there were 61 hospitalizations in the 0-4 group.

The report notes that unvaccinated children are much more likely to be hospitalized than their vaccinated counterparts, with a hospitalization rate of 3.3 times higher in the 5-11 age group and 3.8 times higher for 12-17.

When it comes to critical care admissions, 45 children have been admitted to critical care since the start of this school year: 25 in the 0-4 age bracket, 11 in 5-11, and nine in 12-17.

Of those, 14 were in the most recent reporting period: nine in 0-4, three in 5-11 and two in 12-17.

There have been no deaths among children in this school year.

Rates of childhood vaccination in B.C.: Here are the leaders

These are the top areas for pediatric vaccination, based on the latest BCCDC data for five-to-11-year-olds, two doses:

  1. Vancouver Midtown: 65%
  2. North Vancouver: 62%
  3. Greater Victoria: 60%
  4. Saanich Peninsula: 58%
  5. Vancouver Westside, Vancouver Northeast, West Vancouver/Bowen Island: 57%
  6. Central Coast: 55%
  7. Vancouver South, Vancouver City Centre, Vancouver Centre North: 53%
  8. New Westminster, Richmond: 50%
  9. Burnaby, Western Communities: 49%

Here's how to get your child vaccinated in B.C.

In order to be vaccinated, five-to-11-year-olds must first be registered in B.C.'s Get Vaccinated system, after which time an invitation will be sent (by text or email) to book an appointment.

You can find all the information online at B.C.'s pediatric vaccine page, or call the central vaccination line at 1-833-838-2323.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
Email Julie, jmaclellan@newwestrecord.ca.