By Massimo Calabrese
In response to the ongoing demand for vaccines, limited appointment options in Williams Lake, and increasing COVID-19 cases in the Cariboo Chilcotin, Paradise Cinemas is again partnering with Interior Health to offer drop-in COVID-19 vaccine clinics at the movie theatre.
The next clinic takes place on Thursday, Sept. 23 from 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Clinics are also planned for Monday, Sept. 27 and every Thursday in October, all from 3:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Over the course of the first three movie theatre clinics, Interior Health vaccinated more than 300 people, representing over 2.5 per cent of our town’s population. A majority of these were first doses, showing that there are still a lot of people who have the potential to get vaccinated if given the opportunity or encouragement to do so.
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me to initiate these vaccine clinics. I’d like to sincerely thank the nurses and everyone at Interior Health who contributed during this very stressful, exhausting time for our healthcare workers. I also wish to thank the businesses who showed their support by donating over $1,100 in prizes to our previous clinics. Finally, I would like to thank Dave, Jas, and Munraj Hothi at Paradise Cinemas for their continued support and enthusiasm. Despite closures and restrictions, they always find a way to give back to the community.
I have been in communication with Mayor Walt Cobb, city council, and city administration regarding the actions they are taking to address vaccination uptake. My main focus has been on increasing accessibility and encouraging people to get vaccinated. The city is involved in several ongoing initiatives, including working with TRU to allow local nursing students to work at vaccine clinics in order to alleviate stress on healthcare staff. Much of their work goes unseen, and I am encouraged by their efforts. Our mayor, council, and administration share my enthusiasm and determination for making vaccines more accessible.
The benefits of vaccines are profound, and the science is clear. On Sept. 16, 2021, both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines received full approval from Health Canada. It is in our best interest to encourage vaccination as it provides safety and security to everybody and much-needed relief to both our local economy and healthcare system which are currently under immense strain.
A vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations are among unvaccinated individuals, and cases are rising steadily in the Cariboo-Chilcotin.
From Sept. 7th to 13th, the region had over 90 new cases. Our first dose vaccination rate has finally surpassed 70 per cent of those over 12, but as of Sept. 14th only 61 per cent of 18 to 49-year-olds have theirs. Unvaccinated individuals in B.C. are currently 32.2 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 than those who are fully vaccinated. (COVID-19 case and vaccination data from the BCCDC Surveillance Dashboard).
Many people in our community have concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, and those concerns are preventing them from getting immunized. I believe the city has a key role to play in providing information on vaccine safety, efficacy and importance. They should collaborate with local health officials and community leaders to address these concerns. While personal choice must be respected, I believe there is room for positive encouragement from our politicians. They should provide regular weekly updates on vaccinations and case numbers in the region, and the Provincial Health Office should make community-specific data more accessible.
The last thing Williams Lake needs now is more division. Engaging in productive conversations will allow us to come together and make our city a safer place for everyone. To those still on the fence about getting vaccinated, it’s okay to have concerns.
I encourage you to speak to friends and family who have been vaccinated and to consult qualified doctors and medical professionals about any health concerns you have. Get your information from reliable sources like the BCCDC and consider the benefits of being vaccinated not only for yourself but for those around you, especially young children and people who cannot take the vaccine due to health reasons.
Thank you to everyone in Williams Lake who has already gotten vaccinated. We all want to get back to normal, so let’s encourage each other to do our part.
A huge thank you to our nurses and healthcare workers. I invite our mayor and council to stop by the upcoming clinics to show their support.