B.C. unveils plan to vaccinate millions by September

·3 min read

Nearly one year after the first case of COVID-19 was identified in B.C., the province announced its plan to have everyone who wants a vaccine immunized by September.

B.C. has distributed 100,000 immunizations in the past six weeks, and the province announced its timeline for the general population on Jan. 22.

Beginning in late-February, the province will move on to Phase 2 of the vaccination rollout. From December to March 800,000 doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in B.C., from April to June 2.6 million doses, and June to September six million doses are expected in the province.

"The plan forward is one that will put 4.3 million British Columbians in a vaccinated situation by the end of September," Premier John Horgan said.

"By the end of September everyone who wants a vaccination will have one and the community immunity that we're all striving for will be a reality," Horgan said.

The plan depends on a consistent supply of vaccine, which has been disrupted recently with Pfizer upscaling its production plant in Europe, Horgan said. New vaccines, not yet approved by Health Canada, will also allow amendments to the plan going forward.

The province announced plans Friday to establish vaccine distribution in clinics in 172 communities in March through local health authorities in partnership with businesses, volunteers and municipalities.

It will be the largest immunization program in the history of the province, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said, with 8.6 million immunizations (two doses per person, 35 days apart) planned in the coming months.

People born in 1941 and earlier who were not immunized in Phase 1 are eligible to receive the vaccine in Phase 2, starting in late February and early March, as the age group eligible for vaccine moves down from there in five-year increments. Starting in mid-to-late February, health authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous seniors 65 and older, and Indigenous Elders, to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

Hospital staff, community general practitioners, and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1 will be eligible in Phase 2 as well as vulnerable populations living in congregate settings and shelters and staff in community home support and home care programs.

People aged 16 to 69 who are considered extremely vulnerable will also be eligible during this time including those with specific cancers, people receiving immunotherapy, sever respiratory conditions, rare diseases, immunosuppression therapies, adults on dialysis, people who have had their spleen removed, women who are pregnant with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) and those with significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support.

Vaccinations to begin on general population in April

Phase 3 (April to June) will broaden the vaccine distribution into the general population. Starting with B.C. residents aged 60 to 79, who will likely get their first shot in April.

As more vaccines are approved, particularly those with less stringent transportation and temperature restrictions, other age groups may be considered during Phase 3 — specifically those between the ages of 18 and 64 who are front-line essential workers or work in specific industries.

When Phase 4 begins (July to September) vaccinations will be available for those aged 59 and under, moving down in five-year cohorts to age 18.

When vaccine distribution starts coming to the general population in Phases 3 and Phase 4 clinics will be held at large centres including school gymnasiums, arenas, convention and community halls and mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles will be available for some rural communities and for those who are homebound due to mobility issues, with more details coming on those operations in late February and early March.

The province's communication plan launching in late-February will let residents know when they can expect to be vaccinated, how and where to pre-register and how to access vaccination clinics. Residents can register two to four weeks before being eligible for a vaccine.

Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle