UPDATE: 2:25 p.m.
British Columbia's COVID-19 vaccine rollout is ahead of schedule, and all adult British Columbians are expected to be offered the first dose of the vaccine before Canada Day.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Thursday more than 300,000 frontline workers will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine over the next two months. This comes as the expected supply of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine for the next month has more than doubled what was originally expected.
While the AstraZeneca vaccine will be given primarily to frontline workers (see below for list of industries), the increased supply of Pfizer and Moderna means the age-based rollout will be moved up. Earlier this month, B.C. expected about 415,000 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines through to mid-April, but increased supply has bumped that number to 906,000 expected doses.
This means beginning this coming Saturday, those who are 79 years old will be able to book their vaccine appointment and by March 27, everyone 75 and older will be able to book an appointment.
Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team, said those between 60 and 75 should be able to get immunized between April and May, those aged 40 to 59 should have access to the first dose of vaccine in May, while those 18 and older should be able to get vaccinated in June. This schedule doesn't take into account the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada earlier month. When the vaccination plan was first announced in January, Dr. Henry expected every adult to be vaccinated by September.
Dr. Ballem said over the next month, a larger proportion of the vaccines will be directed to the Lower Mainland, where the vast majority of new cases are coming from. And by the end of April, about 25 per cent of British Columbians are expected to be vaccinated .
But Dr. Henry noted the vaccine is not a “get out of jail free card,” and safety measures must still be followed until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated. She said the vaccines are very good at reducing serious symptoms from the virus, but transmission is still possible.
Most of the frontline workers eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine will be contracted by public health beginning in April, but the province has recently acquired 68,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In the Interior, 6,500 doses will be immediately directed to workers in industrial work camps, 34 food processing plants and six farms and nurseries.
Beginning in April, hundreds of thousands of more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are expected to arrive in B.C., and be administered to other frontline workers. The order of these “priority groups” has not yet been announced.
Dr. Henry noted these workers should not call into the age-based rollout call centre, as public health will reach out to them. And beginning April 6, that age-based call centre will be largely replaced with an online booking system.
ORIGINAL: 12:55 p.m.
More than 300,000 first responders, grocery store employees, teachers, child care workers and others will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks, Premier John Horgan announced Thursday.
Beginning in April, frontline workers in a number of “priority groups” will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine. These vaccinations will take place at the same time as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines continue to be given out by age, with older people getting them first.
“We know how challenging this pandemic has been on our front-line workers,” Premier John Horgan said in a press release.
“Many of these people have come to work throughout this pandemic, continuing to teach and care for our children, stock the shelves of our local grocery store and keep our communities safe. By immunizing these front-line workers, we are making workplaces and communities throughout our province safer.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the age-based rollout is ahead of schedule, allowing the AztraZeneca vaccine to be given to people working in challenging environments, or in places where outbreaks and clusters are ongoing.
The government expects to receive about 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May. The vaccines will be administered through a combination of community pharmacists, existing immunization clinics and mobile clinics at some worksites.
Booking arrangements for these workers will be established in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Interior Health will be holding a vaccination clinic for staff living in congregate housing at Big White beginning this weekend.
Workers in the following sectors will be eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine:
- first responders (police, firefighters, emergency transport)
- K-12 educational staff
- child care staff
- grocery store workers
- postal workers
- bylaw and quarantine officers
- manufacturing workers
- wholesale/warehousing employees
- staff living in congregate housing at places such as ski hills
- correctional facilities staff
- cross-border transport staff