B.C. health officials are urging two groups in the province to get vaccinated as the remainder of those unvaccinated falls to 13.2 per cent.
On Tuesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged pregnant or breastfeeding women and those who have previously been infected with COVID-19 to get vaccinated.
Acknowledging concerns among those who are pregnant, breastfeeding or looking to become pregnant, Henry made assurances that Canada's approved COVID-19 vaccines are safe for use among that group.
"While it is true that the clinical trials did not include pregnant people, we also know a lot more about these vaccines and how safe they are and how they work in pregnant and breastfeeding people," she said.
Henry said that not only are all of the approved vaccines safe for use in pregnant women, they are "highly recommended."
B.C. has seen about 40 pregnant women in intensive-care units in hospitals due to COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic and Henry said most of them have been there in the past few months. Most of those patients, she said, were unvaccinated.
Henry warned of worse sickness from COVID-19 while pregnant, along with associated risks, especially with the Delta variant.
Another group of concern addressed on Tuesday is those who have previously been infected with COVID-19, who Henry said will have had an "inconsistent" immune response.
Henry, citing studies out of Israel, said the vaccine provides reliable long-term immunity, while previous infection may not.
She also said symptoms of "long COVID" are often alleviated after being vaccinated.
Case management, children and schools
Henry also announced changes to B.C.'s school notification system.
Last year, exposure notifications were publicly posted whenever others had been exposed to a confirmed case in a school.
That system was initially done away with for this school year, with Henry citing "increased anxiety" from letters home to parents.
"We have heard from parents across the province and recognize parents' need for an authoritative source to understand what is happening in their schools," she said.
Further details of the reinstatement of that system, or another system, will be in place at the end of this week, Henry said.
The province is also preparing to vaccinate children ages six to 11, with the final phases of studies among that age group underway and Health Canada expecting a data packet from Pfizer for review.
"I think that's very good news. It gives us just one more tool to be able to protect younger children against this virus," Henry said.
Another change announced on Tuesday is to the isolation protocols in the province, with those who are fully vaccinated no longer needing to self-isolate following potential exposure. Those in that group will, however, need to get tested and isolate should any symptoms arise, Henry said.