B.C. commits to vaccinating 400,000 in second phase

·4 min read

B.C. is moving into the second phase of its immunization plan, vaccinating seniors in the community aged 80 and up over the course of this month.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry also said the second dose of the three approved vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca—will be delayed to four months or 16 weeks, to provide more protection to more people sooner. Henry said the initial dose provides “a very high level of real-world protection.”

In Phase 2, more than 400,000 people in B.C. will receive their first vaccine dose from March to early April, including:

• seniors and high-risk people residing in independent living and seniors' supportive housing (including staff);

• home-care support clients and staff;

• Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older); and

• seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older).

Today, first-dose immunizations begin for those living and working in independent living centres and seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff. Health authorities will directly contact those in this priority group to book appointments—there is no need to call.

Beginning Monday (March 8), seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous peoples aged 65+ who are not living in independent living or seniors' supportive housing can make one call to book their appointment through their local health authority call centre according to a staggered schedule. This is to avoid long waits and system overload.

Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15:

• March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years+) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment;

• March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment; and

• March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years+) may call to book their vaccine appointment.

Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for yourself, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available on March 8, here: www.gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst

"We can now see the light at the end of what has been a difficult and challenging time for us all. To get us through, we need to continue to work together and support each other," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "We are working hard each and every day to make sure that everyone who wants a vaccine gets one, and my new provincial health officer order significantly expands the range of health professions and occupations who can support our immunization clinics, including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters and retired nurses."

For health professionals who want to sign up to support B.C.'s immunization efforts as immunizers, visit: https://forms.hlth.gov.bc.ca/registry-covid-19

Immunizing other priority groups identified in Phase 2, many of whom have already received their first dose, is also underway, including:

• Indigenous communities, Indigenous Elders, hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1;

• vulnerable populations living and working in select congregate settings; and

• staff in community home support and nursing services for seniors.

In mid-April, Phase 3 will begin mass vaccination of people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16+ who are extremely clinically vulnerable, at community immunization clinics throughout B.C. Mobile clinics will be available in some rural communities and for people who are homebound due to mobility issues.

In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous peoples born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31.

As of last week, 252,373 people in B.C. have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including 73,808 who have received their second dose.

“Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this,” said Premier John Horgan. “We have a long way to go.”

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel