B.C. accelerates vaccine timeline for extremely clinically vulnerable, seniors

·2 min read

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it is accelerating the timeline for the COVID-19 vaccine once again, allowing people who are "extremely clinically vulnerable" and some seniors to book their shots earlier than expected.

The Ministry of Health says in a news release that people at higher risk from COVID-19 due to existing medical conditions, including transplant recipients and those with cancer and severe respiratory conditions, will be able to register for their vaccine beginning next Monday.

This group of people was originally scheduled to receive their shots in Phase 3 starting in April, but Health Minister Adrian Dix says the province has made tremendous progress on its age-based program and has additional vaccine supply.

The release says the new timeline means that about 200,000 people in B.C. aged 16 years or older who are clinically extremely vulnerable will receive their first dose of vaccine in the coming weeks.

The booking process for vulnerable people will run parallel to the ongoing age-based schedule, which has also been sped up so that 76-year-olds can start booking Wednesday, 75-year-olds on Thursday and 74-year-olds on Friday.

B.C. reported 682 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, of which 144 involve variants of concern, and one new death linked to the virus.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also amended her order on gatherings and events to allow outdoor religious services, as long as organizers ensure COVID-19 safety plans are in place and attendees follow those plans.

Henry says the vaccination of extremely clinically vulnerable people is "another encouraging step forward" as the province continues to ramp up its immunization efforts.

The province says expert physicians have determined who is most at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and the individuals identified will receive a letter in the mail in the coming days on how to book an appointment.

The full list of conditions that classify individuals as extremely clinically vulnerable is available on the provincial government's website and includes rare blood diseases, diabetes requiring insulin and significant developmental disabilities.

If people who believe they are in that vulnerable group have not received a letter by April 15, the ministry says they can contact the provincial call centre or use the online booking platform set to launch April 6, to confirm they are on the list.

"Since Day 1 of our immunization plan, we have set out to protect those who are most at risk to COVID-19," says Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.'s immunization plan, in the news release.

"We used clinical evidence from around the world and clinical expertise and patient registries in B.C. to develop this list and look forward to taking another important step forward in our immunization plan."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2021.

The Canadian Press