First doses slowly climbing, but how to reach remaining unvaccinated? Experts weigh in
Eighty-six per cent of eligible people 12 and older in B.C. have now received their first COVID-19 vaccine, and 78.6 per cent have gotten their second dose.
However, those who are unvaccinated still make up the majority of new cases and hospitalizations, and concerns about the risk are leading to difficult conversations and decisions within some families.
Ninety-year-old Julie Mahler is fully vaccinated, but has had to ask some unvaccinated members of her family to take precautions around her.
“I hope I speak for other families too, who have this problem,” she said. “To me, it’s all misinformation, but to them, it’s probably the true thing.”
She said it’s left her also feeling worried about the health of her unvaccinated family members.
“I just don’t know what to do anymore,” she said. “I talked to them, but it’s no use.”
Emergency room physician Dr. Navdeep Grewal said that’s the kind of conversation that is likely taking place in a lot of households right now.
“That kind of discussion, I totally agree, can be difficult,” she said. “I can see how that could lead to conflict. It could lead to conflict for things as simple as birthday parties, or Friday night get-togethers.”
Grewal suggested seeing if those people who are unvaccinated will consider talking to their primary care provider.
“They can then have those discussions in a safe space,” she said. “Where people can do myth-busting, and people can have science-backed, evidence-based data behind them.”
UBC public policy associate professor Heidi Tworek said she recommends being open to listening to concerns.
“All you’re trying to do is keep the lines of dialogue open,” Tworek said. “Figure out where the hurdles are for this person, figure out who or what might be the best way of getting them over that.”
Tworek added not being vaccinated doesn’t automatically make someone anti-vaccination, they may just be hesitant for a variety of reasons.
“It’s really crucial that we do not lump everybody who is still unvaccinated into one box,” Tworek said. “If we approach this with the sense that every person is a hardcore anti-vaxxer, we may actually use the wrong policy tools or conversation tools to be talking with people.”
Psychologist Dr. Joti Samra said this is an issue a lot of families are struggling with currently.
“We currently are all exposed to a very strong narrative that places individuals in one of two categories,” she said. “We need to take an agree to disagree approach, be civil and respectful, and be open to the idea of hearing the reasons why for opinions that may be different from ours.”
Tworek said there is no one right answer to convince people to get vaccinated, and added “it’s much more granular.”
Whatever the method or approach, Dr. Grewal is hoping vaccination rates continue to rise.
“I see the numbers of unvaccinated people that are coming into the ER with COVID, and quite sick with COVID,” she said. “So from my point of view, and from the perspective of my health-care worker colleagues, we welcome anything that will increase those numbers.”
Mahler said she wants her family members to be safe and healthy, and to be able to visit and give her a hug.
“(Being vaccinated) gives you such a sense of relief, actually,” she said. “Because you protect yourself, and you try to protect the people around you, too.”
From Sept. 7 to 13, people who are not fully vaccinated accounted for 76.5 per cent of new COVID-19 cases. They accounted for 87.3 per cent of hospitalizations from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13.
New cases over the past week (Sept. 7-13):
- Not vaccinated - 3,375 (68.4 per cent)
- Partially vaccinated - 400 (8.1 per cent)
- Fully vaccinated - 1,160 (23.5 per cent)
Hospitalizations over the past two weeks (Aug. 31 – Sept. 13):
- Not vaccinated - 316 (81.7 per cent)
- Partially vaccinated - 22 (5.7 per cent)
- Fully vaccinated - 49 (12.7 per cent)