Thu. May 19th, 2022

A longtime member of the British Columbia legislature says the “Alberta influence” is a factor in a part of BC where intensive care units cannot accommodate the influx of COVID-19 patients.

MLA Mike Bernier said the proximity to Alberta “set us back from day 1 ” when it comes to some northern residents avoiding vaccination.

“That would be the Alberta influence. A good portion of people in the Dawson Creek, Pouce Coupe, Fort St. John area, are very closely related, whether for personal reasons or through work, with Alberta,” he said.

“And we’ve seen the problems in Alberta with a solid message about trying to get people vaccinated until recently and the crisis they’re in.”

Bernier said some were so angry when BC introduced vaccine passports that they posted online messages about shooting him to support the policy.

Most residents of the BC region are not anti-waxers, said Bernier, a member of the Opposition BC Liberal Party.

“They are strong-willed and do not like government intervention. They just want to work and raise their families and are very skeptical that officials in general tell them what to do,” he added.

Bernier, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 two days before his appointment to a first dose of a vaccine in May last year, has firmly decided on vaccination and made him a target for threats.

‘Shoot this guy’ comment on social media

About 100 people gathered last month outside his office in Dawson Creek, where Northern Health says 55 percent of those eligible had received a second dose on Tuesday. BC’s overall vaccination rate was about 82 percent Thursday.

“I was contacted by the RCMP because they had made a great Facebook rally page, and someone went there about 10 minutes in advance and said, ‘Perfect, now we know where he is.’ Let’s get our guns and go shoot this guy so we don ‘should not listen to him anymore,’ ” Bernier said.

“I can not back up the message of what I know and think is right for people in my region. And you know, no one will deter me just by making some threats.”

Bernier responded to the crowd by standing behind a pickup and saying that such online comments make the work of people in public life more difficult as they try to represent all components.

Provincial politicians thank Bernier

At a news conference Thursday, Prime Minister John Horgan praised both Bernier and his BC Liberals colleague Dan Davies, whose Peace River North riding includes Fort St. John, for their vigilance in encouraging vaccination.

Health Minister Adrian Dix has also publicly thanked Bernier and Davies along with local mayors.

While health officer in the province Dr. Bonnie Henry and politicians on either side of the law are urging more people to get vaccinated, at least one northern region mayor has questioned whether the high number of admissions is actually due to people being vaccinated.

Pouce Coupe Mayor Lorraine Michetti said politicians create divisions in a community by encouraging people to be vaccinated because it is a personal choice.

“People have paid property taxes, they have paid income taxes. They have rights not to be vaccinated if they do not want to be,” Michetti said in an interview, adding that she is fully vaccinated.

Michetti, whose Facebook posts have previously been investigated, has previously made controversial and misleading remarks about the severity of the pandemic. She has been removed from all committee and portfolio positions by the rest of her council.

In a recent Facebook post shared with local media, she wrote: “I want to see these hospitals where COVID -vaccinated people are. We all know the news is lying!”

A Facebook post from Pouce Coupe, BC Mayor Lorraine Michetti questioning hospitalization among unvaccinated people. Provincial data show that people who are not fully vaccinated are 17 times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are. (Facbook)

Asked about Michetti’s comments at a provincial press conference, Dix said: “Our healthcare professionals deserve better than leaders who suggest they have nothing to do with what has been an incredible pressure in our ICUs from people who are sick with COVID-19. It’s a very challenging time. ”

‘Historical distrust of the government’

In the case of First Nations, there are other reasons for lower vaccination rates.

Dr. Shannon McDonald, chief physician at the First Nations Health Authority, said indigenous peoples who have not been vaccinated “really have a historical distrust of the government, in general, of health systems”, noting anti-native racism in British Columbia’s health system as described in a report earlier this year was “triggering.”

McDonald said the number of COVID-19 cases has increased dramatically in the 203 communities across the province where it is responsible, going from 10 to 15 a day in mid-August to 256 after Labor Day weekend. 52 of these communities are located in the northern BC.

McDonald said there are lower vaccination rates among those in the 19- to 39-year-old age groups in these communities, where it stands at “mid-50s to 60s.”

The health authority has recently changed tactics to raise vaccination rates, go from mass clinics to having vaccine doses available in the community at all times, so people who come to regular medical appointments can have their questions answered and decide if they want to be vaccinated on the spot. .

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