'Post-pandemic world' by summer is possible: Dr. Henry

A 'post-pandemic' summer

If the COVID-19 vaccine rollout goes according to plan, British Columbians could be living in a “post pandemic world” by the summer.

During Thursday's COVID-19 press conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the recently approved AstraZeneca vaccine should start arriving in B.C. by next week, while the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be approved by Health Canada soon.

And while she said public health has not yet revised their vaccine distribution timeline to account for this increasing supply, she's optimistic that even younger people in their 20s could have their first dose of a vaccine going into the summer months.

When the province's vaccination plan was first released in January, those in their 20s were not expected to receive their vaccine until August or September.

“Our goal absolutely, is to make sure that we – maybe I'm too optimistic – but we're going to be in our post-pandemic world by the summer if things continue to go the way that we want them to,” Dr. Henry said.

“We know there are going to be snags, so I hesitate to say that ... but we are going to do our best and ... I think by the summer we are going to be able to be doing a lot more of those connections that we need that's going to help us get through the trauma that we've all experienced together.”

While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will continue to be administered to people based on age, with older people receiving it first, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be given to first responders and other essential workers. Dr. Henry says she hopes to have a better idea of who will get this vaccine and when by the middle of March, but the first shipment arriving next week will be used to vaccinate people in clusters and outbreaks, primarily in the Lower Mainland and the North.

She also noted that by extending the time between first and second doses of the vaccine to four months, as she announced Monday, it will free up more first doses for others, speeding up the vaccination timeline.

Dr. Henry noted that this change is an example of “learning on the go,” and they've found in the long-term, the effectiveness of the first dose is close to that of receiving both doses.

“These restrictions and closures in many parts of our society has been draining on all of us and we all want to get back to our regular activities as soon as we can. We know the transmissibility of this virus, we've learned, has a seasonality to it and here in B.C. we're coming up to that season in April and in May,” Dr. Henry said.

“It is a whole new place that we are moving into very quickly, brighter days are ahead, so let's continue to stay this course with our safety measures, staying small, staying local, so we can get there even faster.”

As of Thursday, 212,105 British Columbians have received at least one dose of the vaccine, making up about 4.9 per cent of eligible British Columbians 18 years of age and older.

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