Second doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being moved up for residents of the Central Okanagan amid an outbreak being declared within local health region.
Health officials announced Wednesday the interval between the first and second doses is being reduced to 28 days amid a spike in coronavirus cases in the B.C. interior.
The interval for the rest of the province remains 49 days.
“We’re seeing it [COVID-19] mostly in young people and we know young people have had less access to vaccine and are not yet fully immunized,” B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a Wednesday briefings.
Dr. Sue Pollock, chief medical health officer of Interior Health, said most cases that have emerged since July 1 are among those between the ages of 20 and 40, while the “vast majority” of cases have affected those who are either not immunized or only partially immunized.
“Fortunately, we’re not seeing COVID-19 in our most vulnerable populations at this point in time,” Pollack said.
Across B.C., 80.8% of eligible residents have received their first dose, while 63.2% are fully vaccinated.
But in the Interior Health Region, 74.2% have received their first dose, while 60% are fully vaccinated.
Provincial data released Tuesday (and up to date as of July 23) revealed just over 199,000 in the Interior Health Region are not immunized.
That’s the highest rate — 26.2% — in B.C. after the Northern Health Region (32.5%).
The Central Okanagan local health area will also be reintroducing mask mandates effective early Thursday morning at midnight.
The mandates will affect all public indoor spaces for Central Okanagan communities, Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna Lake Country, West Bank First Nation lands and the electoral districts of the Central Okanagan.
Residents are also being encouraged to mask up outdoors if they cannot socially distance.
Masks will be optional for children 12 and younger who are attending camps or similar settings.
Liquor service at restaurants, bars and pubs can remain at normal hours
But people are being told not to socialize between tables and patrons must wear masks, unless they need to remove them to drink and eat.
Casinos will remain open but masks will be mandatory inside.
Nightclubs will remain open but patrons will have to go without dancing. Clubgoers will be expected to remain at their own table — up to a maximum of 10 people per table — and cannot socialize between tables.
Fitness centres can remain open as long as they abide by increased cleaning and physical distancing protocols. Masks will need to be worn inside while people exercise.
The province is also telling non-immunized people to avoid travelling in or out of the region for non-essential reasons.
“This is a new strategy because we have high immunization rates [across the province] and the virus is not going to spread as rapidly,” Henry said.
Residents of the region are also being encouraged to organize events outdoors rather than indoors whenever possible.