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COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kelowna long-term care facility despite vaccinations

Click to play video: 'Kelowna outbreak raises questions about vaccination' Kelowna outbreak raises questions about vaccination
WATCH: A dozen staff and residents at a Kelowna long term care facility have contracted COVID-19. After widespread vaccinations in long-term care, some are questioning how this outbreak even happened . As Megan Turcato reports, it's not raising red flags for the health authority. – Mar 8, 2021

A COVID-19 outbreak was declared on Sunday afternoon at Cottonwoods Care Centre in Kelowna, B.C., despite the majority of residents already being vaccinated against the coronavirus.

The Interior Health Authority said two staff members and 10 residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

Read more: Bingo, movie nights: COVID-19 outbreaks plummet in LTC homes as vaccines bring relief

Contact tracing is underway and additional infection control and prevention measures have been implemented at the facility to curb the spread of the virus, Interior Health said.

Cottonwood Care Centre is a long-term care facility operated by Interior Health. It has 221 publicly funded long-term care beds.

Laurie Tjernstrom said her husband, Howard, resides at the care home and has received two doses of the vaccine.

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“I was really surprised because I thought everyone was vaccinated. I was under the illusion that you were somewhat protected, but I realize now that there are some people with underlying health problems that maybe can’t have the vaccine, they are not giving me any information,” Tjernstrom said.

“I’m very happy with Cottonwoods, they’ve been wonderful to my husband, I think the staff here are really outstanding and I certainly don’t have any complaints.”

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As of Feb. 15, 82 per cent of residents at the facility had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or 220 of its 268 residents, according to data provided by the BC Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC).

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Dr. Sue Pollock, an Interior Health medical health officer, said Cottonwood Care Centre was one of the first long-term care facilities to be offered the vaccine in December.

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However, there is a short-term wing where residents reside on a temporary basis, and some of them only received the vaccine within the last few weeks.

Read more: B.C. reports 1,462 new COVID-19 cases over three days, 11 deaths

“Really it depends on the timing of that vaccine. It does take 2-3 weeks to develop immunity or protection against COVID-19 after receiving a vaccine,” Pollock said.

“In some of these cases they have received the vaccine but it has been more recently.”

Pollock said 65 per cent of staff at the facility have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Some staff and residents have already qualified for their second dose.

Public health is investigating how the virus got into the facility.

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Vaccination clinics were held at the facility, once in January and once in February, and staff can also access a vaccine at the community health clinic.

In late January, B.C. health officials announced that COVID-19 vaccines had been delivered in all long-term care homes in British Columbia.

Read more: Dr. Bonnie Henry apologizes for ‘bad communications’ with people whose 2nd vaccine dose was cancelled

“I am just relieved, tremendously relieved, and grateful that we’ve been able to get into every single long-term care home and assisted living facility in this province, every single one, and have offered protection to those, our most vulnerable citizens,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, on Jan. 29.

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Residents and staff at long-term care homes were the first to be vaccinated, and that program has been completed.

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One week ago, B.C. health officials announced that the gap between the first and second doses of the vaccine will be extended to 112 days.

Pfizer, one of the manufacturers, has recommended a 21-day gap between doses and the province previously was spacing them out by 42 days.

On Monday, B.C. entered phase 2 of its vaccination rollout plan, with seniors 90 and older and Aboriginal people 65 and older eligible to book their COVID-19 vaccination appointments.

Mass inoculation clinics across the province will open in arenas, community centres, curling clubs, trade and convention centres and health centres next week.

Interior Health residents can learn about the second phase of the regional vaccination plan in our story from March 7.

To learn more about phase 3 and phase 4, visit B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan website.

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