As B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program continues to roll out, the Smithers Local Health Area (LHA) is lagging significantly behind in vaccine uptake.
As of Friday (July 23) the B.C. CDC reports 65 per cent of eligible persons (those 12 years of age or older) have received their first dose in the Smithers LHA. That compares to 79.5 per cent province-wide.
“Fluctuations between vaccine coverage rates could be for a variety of reasons, from access to clinic opportunities in more rural/remote areas, to levels of vaccine confidence,” said Eryn Collins, a spokesperson for Northern Health. “We continue to work on both fronts — to offer more convenient and low-barrier vaccine opportunities such as mobile, drive-thru and pop-up clinics and to make sure people have access to the most credible and reliable information about vaccine effectiveness and safety, so they can make informed decisions to get immunized.”
Smithers is also behind most of its nearest neighbouring LHAs. In the Northwest, Kitimat leads the pack with coverage of 86 per cent followed closely by Haida Gwaii at 84 per cent, above the provincial average.
Prince Rupert, Nisga’a and Upper Skeena are keeping pace with coverage of 80, 76, and 76 per cent respectively.
Terrace and the combined Snow Country-Stikine-Telegraph Creek LHA also eclipse the Smithers average at 74 and 75 per cent respectively.
The only local exceptions are the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs at 65 and 61 per cent respectively.
Within the Smithers LHA, the numbers are broken down further into Community Health Service Areas, which are Smithers-Town Centre, Smithers Rural and Houston.
Uptake in the urban area is higher at 71 per cent compared to 61 per cent for Smithers Rural and 65 per cent for Houston, but still well below the province and surrounding LHAs.
In terms of those who have received both doses, Smithers fares more favourably with the provincial average, which was 53.2 per cent on July 23 suggesting demand for first dose may be plateauing in the area. In the LHA, as of that date, 50 per cent were fully vaccinated, 54 per cent in Smithers-Town Centre, 46 per cent in Smithers Rural and 51 per cent in Houston.
Despite the relatively low vaccination rate, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in the Smithers LHA for several weeks.
Health authorities are warning, however, that even a vaccination rate of 80 per cent, may still leave room for variants of the virus — against which the vaccines are not as effective — to take hold and create a fourth wave of infections.