Whenever someone walks through the doors of the Fort St. John Pharmacy with questions about COVID-19 vaccines, Michael Ortynsky prepares himself for a long conversation attempting to convince them to get the shot.
Often, he succeeds.
"They're not anti-vaxxers, they're just frightened," he says of the people he talks to in northeastern B.C. who remain unvaccinated. "They have been getting a lot of half-truths and are very much misinformed about the reality of the vaccines and the pandemic."
Ortynsky says he talks to between two to five unvaccinated people a day, with each conversation lasting around 40 minutes. In them, he tries to address people's fears point by point, without judgment, knowing this might be the first time they are speaking directly to someone with a medical background.
"It's a delicate conversation to have."
And it's an important one: northeastern British Columbia remains the province's most unvaccinated region, with just 55 percent of residents over 12 counted as fully vaccinated in the Fort Nelson and Peace River North local health areas, and only 53 percent in Peace River South, compared to 83 percent for the province as a whole.
Collectively, B.C.'s northeast is the only part of the province where less than sixty percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.