Dentists, midwives, retired nurses ready to answer the call as part of B.C.'s immunization workforce

·2 min read
Jasna Stojanovski prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic for care home workers at St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto, on Dec. 22, 2020.
Jasna Stojanovski prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic for care home workers at St. Michael’s Hospital, in Toronto, on Dec. 22, 2020.

(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

British Columbia will be expanding its immunization workforce over the next six months, training doctors, retired nurses and midwives to administer doses as more shipments of the COVID-19 vaccines arrive.

In a statement Wednesday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said the vaccination effort will take careful planning.

"Vaccinating our entire population is a monumental task that must account for the diversity of our geography and our population. We must consider how to safely deliver vaccine to rural and remote communities, how to connect with seniors and Elders everywhere, and how to ensure the process to get immunized is as simple as possible."

Part of that planning includes bringing in retired nurses, pharmacy technicians, dentists and midwives to help administer doses in order to meet its goal of getting most British Columbians vaccinated by September. Officials have not publicly announced how those professionals can sign up to join the effort.

Some potential future immunizers — like retired nurse Jo O'Callaghan — are ready to answer the call.

O'Callaghan, 73, a retired nurse who spent years working in war zones abroad says she's ready for another fight.

"I think it's almost an instinct where you find yourself in something, where other people might be running away from it," O'Callaghan.

"I've dashed off to all kinds of parts of the world to help in disaster situations and conflict situations, and here I am sitting at home... and now it's time for me to do something here."

Jo O’Callaghan, a retired registered nurse, is pictured in North Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.
Jo O’Callaghan, a retired registered nurse, is pictured in North Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.

Dr. Ross Crapo, a dentist, applauded the move.

"The more that we can get this out and into the arms of people and the faster we can do it, the better," Crapo said. "And we're already qualified."

Lehe Spiegelman, Midwives Association of B.C. president, says some of these extra workers can fill gaps in under-served and remote parts of B.C.

"Certainly having midwives sprinkled across the province helps with access, and helps really locate and mobilize that workforce that's available for doing vaccines," Spiegelman said.

B.C. is still in phase one of its vaccine rollout, but the general population will start getting the vaccines in April, with older residents getting their shots first.

To date, more than 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C.

CBC British Columbia is hosting a town hall on March 10 to answer your COVID-19 vaccine questions.

You can find the details at cbc.ca/ourshot, as well as opportunities to participate in two community conversations on March 3, focused on outreach to Indigenous and multicultural communities.

Have a question about the vaccine, or the rollout plan in B.C.? Email us: bcasks@cbc.ca