Reluctance to Vaccine and Rise in R-Value Mean Alberta Cannot Give Up on Pandemic, Expert Says

Reluctance to Vaccine and Rise in R-Value Mean Alberta Cannot Give Up on Pandemic, Expert Says

Rising R-value for COVID-19 in Alberta coupled with stubborn and highest vaccine reluctance rate in the country are two signs that the province’s battle to fend off the pandemic still has hurdles to overcome, says expert in infectious diseases from Calgary.

The province-wide R-value of Alberta – which represents the number of people infected by each infected person – rose to 0.84 from July 5 to 11.

This is up from the previous period, when the R-value was 0.75. The rate is calculated once every two weeks.

Meanwhile, a poll released Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute suggests vaccine hesitancy is more common in Alberta than in the rest of the country.

The survey found that one in five Albertans remains reluctant to be vaccinated, twice the national average.

“We absolutely need to push vaccination further,” said Craig Jenne, associate professor at the University of Calgary in the department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases.

“In fact, we rank last in Canada, of all provincial and territorial jurisdictions, for immunization. So we have the lowest vaccination rate in the country.

According to the survey, in British Columbia the hesitation rate is 12%, and in Ontario and Quebec it is only 9%.

“Reluctance appears to be a larger problem regionally, reaching 22 percent of the population in Alberta and 15 percent each in Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” the institute’s survey report said.

The institute noted that reluctance has declined in Alberta and Saskatchewan since the start of the year, while the rate was 45 percent in Alberta and 26 percent in its eastern neighbor.

Jenne says vaccine reluctance has always been a phenomenon in Alberta, leading in the past to vaccine-preventable epidemics such as whooping cough.

“So that’s a barrier in Alberta that we have to keep working to reduce,” he said.

And while there are encouraging trends – such as the relatively low daily case count and hospitalizations currently below 100 – there are other troubling trends, Jenne said.

One key metric, the positivity rate – the percentage of positive tests compared to the total number of tests on a given day – had fallen steadily since the spring. But it had climbed to 1.4 percent on Wednesday.

By July 10, it had fallen to just 0.50%, the lowest since last summer.

And although the number of daily cases remains relatively low, it is now increasing after hovering in the low 30s for several days. There were 69 new cases reported on Tuesday.

“It looks like the virus is starting to spread again. And that’s something that is of a bit of concern, and certainly something we need to keep an eye out for and be prepared to respond to,” Jenne said.

“And I’m not arguing for closures or lockdowns, but we have to look and say, if we see most of the viral transmission happening in this particular segment, or this activity, are there things that we can do to help reduce that… They don’t need to be absolute black and white restrictions. “

Jenne said it was also of concern that serologic reports indicated during wave three that only three to four percent of Albertans had been exposed to the virus.

Craig Jenne is Associate Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. (Jennifer Lee / CBC)

“So that still suggests that of this unvaccinated group, there is very little protection there.

If all of the hospitalizations that we’ve seen, all of the loss of life were actually only from infecting four or five percent of Albertans, we still have 40 percent with almost no vaccine protection, ”he said. declared.

“So we have to make sure that these people are still protected against the virus even if they are not vaccinated, and the only way to do that is to keep the number of cases low.”

Vaccine passports

The Angus Reid Institute survey also asked respondents if they support the idea of ​​vaccine passports to certify that a person has been vaccinated in order to attend certain events, travel or return to work.

“A majority of Albertans are in favor of this type of policy for air travel, but less for national applications,” the institute said in its poll.

While 77 percent of Ontarians and 83 percent of Quebeckers said they would support vaccine passports to board a commercial flight, only 55 percent of respondents in Alberta approved the idea.

And only 43 percent of Albertans said they would be willing to show proof of vaccination to go to work, compared to 64 percent of Ontario respondents and 61 percent of respondents nationally.

The Angus Reid Institute conducted its online survey July 9-13 with a representative random sample of 2,040 Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum members.

Online surveys do not have a margin of error that can be accurately calculated. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The margin of error is greater when looking at the results at the provincial level.

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