Omicron, Pango lineage B.1.1.529, was recognized as a variant of concern of Covid-19 by the WHO in November 2021. The illness caused by Omicron and its subvariants is milder than the SARS caused by the original Covid-19 virus. It is severe, or fatal for some people.
By the end of September, 2022, reports and studies of variants in the Omicron lineage that infect vaccinated persons and persons who have been infected were being published: BA.2.75.2, BA.5, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BA.2.10.4, BA.4.6. (See Papers discussing). In the last months of 2022 there were reports of another Omicron sub-variant line known as XBB. The sub-variants are the most antibody-evasive strains tested.
British Columbia replaced daily reporting of Covid-19 statistics in April 2022. BC reported the weekly reports of the BC Centre for Disease Control (“BCCDC”; an agency of the BC government) every Thursday, and CBC BC reported the reports within a day. I listed the CBC BC News weekly reports April to late August. 2022 in Covid-19 #1: Covid-19 wanes, Omicron Rises.
Stories about a vaccination booster program began to appear in August & September. Some of the weekly articles about the weekly reports were not in RSS feed for CBC BC News or in the BC section pages of CBC News, and had to be backdated.
The BC government made announcements to the press about boosters in July 2022 and again on September 6. Booster appointments were not offered until after Sept. 14. BC began to offer appointments for boosters to adults, including seniors less than 70 years old, in late September 2022. Vaccines appointments for adults were offered mainly at pharmacies, and not at public temporary clinics. The boosters offered in BC in late 2022 are bivalent Moderna, presented as effective to provide:
protection from infection
with the original Covid-19 virus lineage;
with Omicron variant BA.1 (aka BA-1).
lower risk of serious symptoms when vaccinated persons are infected with the original Covid-19 lineage and some of the virulent variants of concern (including Alpha & Delta).
The thinking of the BCCDC in the first half of 2022 was dominated by the observations that
there were no vaccines for children;
the original viruses and the main variants did not cause serious symptoms in children;
keeping schools closed kept parents from working.
Schools were reopened but the progress in vaccinating children was slow.
Government thinking shifted to the view that children appeared to be the most infected and least vaccinated, while elderly adults were the most vaccinated and least infected. The implied assumption is that elderly adults would not be exposed to the circulating variants in the summer and could be boosted later.
There was some hand-wringing among BC public health figures about the fact that large numbers of adults are declining to vaccinate or boost, or to vaccinate their own children.
In November 2022 the health care crisises in BC, and throughout North America, was a rise in seasonal respiratory illnesses – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the latest annual influenza, and short supplies of some medications. Journalists added up numbers at the end of 2022.
People began acting as if the SARS disease has vanished and been replaced by a mild flu. People in BC have largely given up wearing masks or paying attention to social distancing.
A large part of the public wants the government and public health professionals to remove mandates. A large part of the public wants to be cared for in the event of illness.
The government treated Covid-19 or Omicron as a minor illness through the spring and summer of 2022.
The government treats the illness as a treatable illness that can be managed by providing health care including hospitalization and intensive care. The public authorities have given the public months of relief from masking, social distancing and other public health measures. Public heath mandates have been dismantled except in health care locations – hospitals, testing and diagnostic services and medical offices.
The government viewed vaccine hesitation as a source of discontent with governance, and has largely tolerated the resistance to mandates.
Health care professionals agree that the illness is treatable in most cases. Health care practitioners are unhappy about working conditions, pay and policy.
The BC Emergency Medical Services Commission, an agency funded and controlled by the Ministry of Health, fired dozens of Ambulance drivers and paramedics who refused to get vaccinated. The workers are demanding reinstatement and other remedies in labour arbitration. They seek public sympathy for immediate reinstatement, reasoning is that “we are on the tail end [of the pandemic] and we’re still not able to work if we’re not vaccinated.”
The number of deaths caused by Covid-19 in BC has increased year by year since the epidemic reached BC. The original virus and several virulent variants have disappeared, but the illness is still fatal.
Public Health measures
Deaths by COVID
Lockdowns, non medical interventions
Vaccinations available and widely taken, mandates, mixture of non medical interventions
Vaccinations + mandates, mixture of non medical interventions, decreasing through the year
2,283* New definition of cause
BC. like the USA, had a period shelter in place (weak lockdown) directives in 2020, followed by a relaxing of measures. BC may have some done somewhat better than the USA but had the same pattern of escalating numbers of deaths as the highly infectious Omicron variants evolved and infected more people. Public policy, in theory, was directed at providing focussed (specialized) protection to the vulnerable but the focussed advice and support was not delivered.
Wastewater samples provided data on active cases as testing of samples in provincial labs declined. The media began to including a few lines on virus detected in wastewater at some treatment plants in reports of the weekly provincial covid numbers. The waste water reports demonstrate that the variants are circulating in the areas served by the plants. Since individual tests are underreported or not reported, public heath analysis is resorting to surveys and questionnaires to gather data about a disease circulating in the community.
It is not clear when Canadian and BC public health authorities started to take and test samples, and began to rely on this method as the main public health tool to dictate policy and advice.