I came across a perplexing and concerning statistic that speaks volumes about the difficulty in stopping COVID-19.
More than 147,000 people in B.C. over the age of 60 have yet to receive a single dose of the vaccine.
This age group makes up 27% of the general population, yet it is also the age group that experiences the worst outcomes from getting COVID-19.
More than 4,700 people over the age of 60 (most between 60 and 79) have required hospitalization after contracting the virus (57% of all hospitalizations). Nearly 1,500 of those have needed critical care in an ICU (58% of all ICU cases) and more than 1,680 (93% of all deaths) have died.
Less than 15% involved fully vaccinated people. Rather, the virus is hitting the unvaccinated hard and older people hardest of all.
Why, then, have so many of the most vulnerable chosen not to be vaccinated?
No doubt, some simply cannot be bothered with getting the shot because they are too busy or it is too inconvenient for them. A small number may have a medical condition that prevents vaccination and others may have other reasons, none of them particularly valid.
Still, a good chunk of responsibility likely lies with the strident, aggressive and anti-science, anti-vaccination movement.
We saw this group’s ugliness on display during their protest rallies at various locations (notably outside some hospitals) around the province last week.
These are not vaccine “hesitancy” people. These are conspiracy theorists who feed on distributing misinformation, usually via social media, to those whose ignorance of science is easily preyed upon.
There is also an air of violence and intolerance within this community. At the rallies last week, a nurse was assaulted outside a Nanaimo hospital and frontline health-care workers were threatened outside hospitals.
In Kelowna, a woman was forced to carry her nine-year-old child on her back to gain access to a pediatric appointment as a crowd tried to block entry and demand she remove her mask.
At some rallies, an odious Trump-like chant of “lock her up” was aimed at Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has required a personal police security detail. Members of the media were also physically threatened (a protester at an anti-vax rally on the legislature front lawn also tried to spit on me).
There is little doubt the anti-vaccination movement, which has recently grown in strength in the U.S. sees this pandemic as a great opportunity to expand its menacing reach even further.
Even though anti-vaxxers are a tiny minority in this country - we will likely achieve a 90% vaccination rate later this fall - their influence on some people will undoubtedly lead to some deeply unfortunate and tragic outcomes: more hospitalizations and deaths resulting from COVID-19.
These tragedies will not be confined to those over the age of 60 who stubbornly refuse to be vaccinated, even though they will pay a disproportionately high price for getting the virus.
Last week, a 41-year-old woman on south Vancouver Island who had declined to be vaccinated died quickly after experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. No age group is immune from tragic outcomes.
However, those 147,000 folks over 60 years who have yet to get their first dose are playing with a bigger fire than younger folks. Stop listening to the anti-science crowd, folks.
Get vaccinated to protect yourself and those around you.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.