B.C. to stretch second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to day 42 amid production delay

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VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor says the province is extending the interval between the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says further delays in the production and delivery of the vaccine over the next two weeks prompted health officials to extend the time period between the shots from 35 to 42 days.

She says about 60 per cent of the more than 119,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in the province so far have been used to protect residents of long-term care homes.

Henry provided an update on B.C.'s vaccine supply on Monday while reporting 26 more deaths linked to the illness and 1,344 new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed over the last three days.

She says the curve of the pandemic in B.C. has plateaued at around 500 cases a day, which is too many, particularly if transmission of several faster-spreading variants of the illness increases in the province.

The latest situation report posted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control shows three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa and six of the variant first found in the United Kingdom.

Those diagnosed with the South African strain had neither travelled nor had contact with anyone who did, which is concerning, Henry said Monday.

Each case of the U.K. variant has so far been linked to travel or close contact with a traveller, with no ongoing transmission, she said.

The centre for disease control has studied about 11,000 samples of COVID-19 in B.C. as part of ongoing efforts to find new variants, Henry added.

Premier John Horgan also marked the one-year anniversary of the first presumptive COVID-19 case in Canada in a statement on Monday.

"While the end of the pandemic is in sight, thanks to the availability of vaccines, the threat is not over. We must remain vigilant," he said.

Horgan said the anniversary is an appropriate time to commemorate the more than 1,000 B.C. residents who have died of COVID-19 and acknowledge the sacrifices people have made to take care of others.

"Today, we recommit ourselves to protecting people's health and livelihoods from the threat of COVID-19, knowing that better days are ahead."

— By Brenna Owen in Vancouver

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press