By the end of January, B.C. health officials are hoping additional treatment options will be available to battle COVID-19, including antiviral medications that are currently under review by Health Canada.
This includes Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir, which are both oral antiviral pills that can be taken at home to treat infections.
B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said at a media briefing Tuesday that while the province is still riding the Omicron variant wave, “we may soon enter the place we see a decline.”
Hospitalizations continue to climb in B.C. with many people sick with the Delta variant and the Omicron variant.
Henry said right now there are three people in their 20s and one person in their 30s in ICU battling COVID. All four people are unvaccinated, she said.
“This strain of the virus is absolutely, mostly mild, in people that have the protection that the vaccine offers,” Henry said
Those without vaccination are at a higher risk of ending up in hospital, she added, and while vaccinated people can still contract Omicron, vaccination reduces the risk of hospitalization by about 50 per cent.
About 60 to 70 per cent of people who contract Omicron are less likely to need hospital care if they are fully vaccinated and that goes up to about 80 to 90 per cent with a booster dose, Henry said.
The risk of hospitalization is 35 per 100,000 if unvaccinated and four per 100,000 if you have received a COVID-19 vaccine within the last six months.
The current restrictions on gatherings and events will remain unchanged for now, Henry added, until circumstances start to improve.
However, when asked if B.C. would consider following in Quebec’s footsteps and implementing a health tax on anyone who refuses to get vaccinated, Health Minister Adrian Dix said it is not something the province is considering at this time.
Henry said she also does not see making vaccines mandatory in the province.
As of Monday, 431 people were in hospital with COVID-19 in B.C. — an increase of 82 from Friday. Of those, 95 were in intensive care, which was only a jump of two.
Global News has learned that about 60 per cent of ICU patients are not vaccinated.
Legislative bureau chief Keith Baldrey said it appears people are being discharged quicker after being admitted to hospital for COVID, which supports the belief that Omicron infects people at a higher rate, forcing more hospital admissions, but the stay in hospital is not as long.
Officials reported seven more people had died of complications from the virus as of Monday, bringing the death toll to 2,446 in B.C. since the beginning of the pandemic.
Henry and Dix took part in a Global News town hall on Monday night, and took the public’s questions about the province’s response to the pandemic, with answers on vaccine mandates, booster shots, and adverse effects of the vaccine.
No deaths have been linked to the vaccine in B.C. so far, Henry said. A very small number of residents — “single digits” — have died within a month of receiving a shot, she said, but investigations confirmed their deaths were not related to the immunization.
Editor’s note: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly reported in the headline that B.C. had hit record-breaking hospitalizations.
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