Critics call on B.C. to fill gaps in COVID-19 information amid 6th wave

With COVID-19 hospitalizations climbing, a group of B.C. doctors is raising concerns around the elderly and others vulnerable to the virus, saying it’s unknown how many of them have been offered a second booster shot.

While fewer masks and more people out in public might suggest otherwise, the province is in the middle of a sixth wave of COVID-19.

“And based on what we’re seeing in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, this is not going to be a small wave,” said Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, a retired emergency physician and member of the COVID-19 watchdog group Protect our Province British Columbia (PoP BC).

The most recent data from the provincial government shows there were 570 COVID hospitalizations as of April 28, which is more than double the number from just a month earlier. Cases continue to climb the fastest for people aged 80 and older. With pandemic safety measures lifted, Filiatrault says seniors and many others are at risk.

“We basically are exposing the most vulnerable in our community to the virus and they are seeing the consequences of that with more hospitalization.”

One layer of protection against serious infection in seniors and people considered clinically extremely vulnerable is a second booster shot. In early April, the province announced fourth doses were being offered, including to people over 70 and the immunocompromised. However, Filiatrault says there’s no way of knowing the progress of the fourth dose rollout, because the province no longer provides that information.

“For accountability purposes, (the provincial government) should be telling us where they’re at with the rollout of the fourth dose for residential care, long-term care, and for the most vulnerable in the community,” said Filiatrault.

For several weeks now, the province has provided weekly COVID-19 updates instead of daily briefings. With the testing strategy having changed, the provided data is not as detailed as it used to be. Analysts and researchers say it’s now nearly impossible to make predictions on where the pandemic is headed in B.C.

“There is a great deal of effort on the government’s side to hide COVID under the rug,” said Damien Contandriopoulos, a professor and public health researcher at the University of Victoria. “To talk as little as possible about COVID and dismiss the gravity of the situation.”

Another layer of protection for high-risk COVID-19 patients is Paxlovid, an antiviral pill designed to prevent hospitalizations. CTV News has learned B.C. has 32,000 rounds of Paxlovid, but has only administered approximately 2,500, due to limited eligibility.

“Plus there’s the issue of how you can access it if you don’t have a family doctor,” added Filiatrault.

As for COVID-19 transmission, take-home rapid tests are the only testing method for most British Columbians. With the province not collecting the results, it’s hard to know how far-reaching this latest wave of the pandemic will be.

With files from CTV's Ian Holliday and Penny Daflos