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COVID-19 vaccination coverage for eligible Okanagan students varies by neighbourhood, city

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As students head back to school, concerns about COVID-19 safety are, yet again, high.

Terri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, said Monday there is a “cloud” hanging over this school year due to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“With the Delta variant accounting for most of the cases in B.C., we’re seeing some concerning results in schools already returned,” she said.

Among other things, Mooring said they want to see the mask mandate expanded to include kindergarten to Grade 3s, and more in-school vaccination.

Single dose COVID-19 vaccination coverage for people 12 to 17 years old in the Okanagan as of Sept. 2 is fairly low compared to the adult population and varies significantly by both neighbourhood and city.

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Vaccination rates among those 12 to 17 years old in Enderby are the lowest in the valley, with only 34 per cent of adolescents in that community having one COVID-19 vaccination, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Armstrong has 52 per cent coverage in that age group, Salmon Arm has 56 per cent and Lumby has 53 per cent, while Vernon and Coldstream have 69 per cent.

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Within the Central Okanagan, which has led the province on case counts for much of the summer, there is slightly more vaccine uptake among young people.

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Okanagan Mission has an 81 per cent vaccination rate among the 12 to 17 year old set, while downtown Kelowna has 68 per cent coverage.

Glenmore is reporting 76 per cent coverage for its eligible school age population while West Kelowna has 68 per cent and rural Central Okanagan, which includes Peachland, has 58 per cent.

In the South Okanagan, Penticton is reporting 73 per cent vaccine coverage while Summerland has 71 per cent.

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Read more: B.C. teachers call for tougher COVID-19 measures as return to classroom looms

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Interior Health announced this week that it intends to host school-based COVID-19 vaccine clinics throughout its coverage areas, which is most the Southern Interior. So far, only Vernon, Armstrong and Keremeos have school clinics scheduled, though more dates are expected. 

Interior Health said all age-eligible students, teachers and staff can walk up, register and receive their first or second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. People are eligible for their second dose 28 days after receiving their first dose.

These clinics will occur throughout September as students get back to school.

Vaccination availability in schools is something that the BC Teachers’ Federation had asked for last May when vaccinations had started. At that time, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said community clinics were the preferred delivery method because they allowed families to get the vaccine together.

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