B.C. accelerates timeline for first vaccine doses, rolls out appointment system for seniors over 80

·4 min read
People wait in line for their COVID-19 vaccine in Vancouver on Dec. 22, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
People wait in line for their COVID-19 vaccine in Vancouver on Dec. 22, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

Every eligible adult in British Columbia should be able to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by late July after the approval of a new vaccine and a decision to delay second doses.

Health officials announced the accelerated timeline Monday as the province moved into the second, seniors-focused phase.

Starting Monday, health authorities will contact residents and staff of independent living centres, and those living in seniors' supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff.

Seniors who do not live in care can call to book their own appointment based on a staggered schedule, which is as follows:

  • From March 8: Seniors over the age of 90 (those born in or before 1931) and Indigenous people over the age of 65 (those born in or before 1956).

  • From March 15: Seniors over the age of 85 (those born in or before 1936).

  • From March 22: Seniors 80 and older (those born in or before 1941).

The phone numbers are listed on the provincial government's website. Phones lines are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. PT. Those who live in the Fraser Health region have the option to book online.

If a senior cannot call to book themselves, a family member, friend or support person can do so on their behalf. The immunization clinic location will be confirmed on the call, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15 for the first group.

The province is using a staggered schedule so the call centre is not overwhelmed by thousands of calls at once. People are being asked only to call when they are eligible.

B.C. released a graphic showing when and how seniors can register to get their COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.
B.C. released a graphic showing when and how seniors can register to get their COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.

Extending gap between 1st, 2nd dose

Also on Monday, the province announced it is extending the time between first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine to four months. The change, as well as Health Canada's approval of a third vaccine, means every eligible person in B.C. will receive the first dose of their vaccine by mid- to late July.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control — and countries around the world such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand — shows "miraculous" protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of a Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

A health-care worker displays a vial of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Monday. The vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Feb. 26.
A health-care worker displays a vial of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Monday. The vaccine was approved by Health Canada on Feb. 26.

She said the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to issue a statement to align with B.C.'s decision, which frees up 70,000 doses for younger age groups.

"This is amazing news," said Henry. "These vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection and that protection lasts for many months."

"This gives us a very real and important benefit to everybody here in B.C.," Henry added. "That means we can move everybody up the list and more people will be protected sooner."

Essential workers might be bumped up queue

The newly authorized AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine will also accelerate B.C.'s overall vaccine timeline, possibly bumping front-line workers up the queue. The province expects to receive its first shipment — likely 60,000 doses — on the week of March 9.

Henry said first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province decides on a strategy for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

B.C.'s original vaccination plan aims to vaccinate 4.3 million eligible adults by September. The four-phase approach is based on age, with the province vaccinating the most vulnerable elderly first before reaching younger adults in the summer.

People between 60 and 79 and medically vulnerable people aged 16 and up are expected to get their shots starting in mid-April by registering for an appointment online.

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