B.C. Vaccine effort ahead of schedule, frontline workers to get vaccinated in Apri

·4 min read

The province announced plans Thursday to vaccinate 300,000 front-line workers, including first responders, grocery store employees, teachers and child care workers, who will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations over the coming weeks.

The province says the moved-up timeline is thanks to increased vaccine supply and extending the amount of time allowed between doses and aims to have everyone in B.C. who is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine receive their first dose before July 1, 2021.

Starting in April, people in priority groups identified by the province will start to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca/SII COVISHIELD (AZ/SII) vaccine. These groups include:

The priority groups have been identified by the province as workers in sectors where the use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging and outbreaks and clusters have occurred or are ongoing. The groups also include places where workers must live or work in congregate settings or maintain the workforce for a critical service.

“We know how challenging this pandemic has been on our front-line workers,” said Premier John Horgan. “Many of these people have come to work throughout this pandemic, continuing to teach and care for our children, stock the shelves of our local grocery store and keep our communities safe. By immunizing these front-line workers, we are making workplaces and communities throughout our province safer.”

The vaccine rollout is ahead of the original schedule introduced later this year in B.C. according to Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

“Following the latest science and data to identify high-risk industries or critical services will allow us to protect even more people from COVID-19, which in turn, gives our entire communities and our province greater protection from the virus,” Dix said.

Currently in B.C., the first shipment of the AstraZeneca and SII vaccines is being deployed to vaccinate people in workplaces identified as having the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission including agricultural operations with congregate worker accommodations, including farms, nurseries and greenhouses and large industrial camps with congregate accommodations for workers as well as food processing plants (including poultry, fruit and fish processing).

“The additional supply of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine allows us to strategically target immunizations to maximize the protection of our province,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “With each person who receives any of our three safe and effective vaccines, we are all that much safer. This targeted outreach builds on the momentum we now have with our age-based program to protect those who have been at work every day, without break and without question, for the past year.”

In total, B.C. expects to receive approximately 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May 2021. The province will use a combination of community pharmacists, existing immunization clinics and mobile clinics at some worksites to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to front-line workers.

Booking arrangements for front-line workers will be established in the coming weeks and will be communicated directly to each sector to arrange bookings. Workers identified as “front-line” and prioritized for the AstraZeneca vaccine should not call into regional health authority call centres at this time.

The province also announced Thursday that the age-based vaccine rollout using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is also accelerating and moving forward ahead of schedule. Currently, every senior born in 1941 or before (80 years old and over) and Indigenous peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years old and over) will be eligible to book a vaccination appointment by Friday, March 19, 2021.

The next age cohort is eligible to call as early as Saturday, March 20. The call centre approach through health authorities has now been extended to include those born between the years of 1942 to 1951 (79 to 70 year olds) and Indigenous peoples born in 1966 and before (55 and over).

This age cohort call-in schedule will begin as follows:

The call-in schedule for the age 70 to 74 age cohort will be announced in the coming days, the province said.

The provincial registration and booking system, both online and by phone, will be implemented starting April 6, for people between the ages of 65 and 69. As a result, the province has adjusted timelines for Phase 3 and Phase 4 of B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan.

As a result of increased vaccine supply and shifting the timeline between doses to 16 weeks, the province says it is now in position to adjust previously announced timelines for the general population for the COVID-19 vaccine. The timelines below provided by the B.C. Government are contingent on vaccine supply and the latest available science and data and may be adjusted, the province noted.

Phase 3 Schedule (D1=Dose 1)

People aged 69 to 16 who are clinically extremely vulnerable (D1 March/April) For a list of who is considered extremely vulnerable: click here.

People aged 79 to 60, in five-year increments:

Phase 4

People aged 59 to 18, in five-year increments:

Dale Boyd, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Times-Chronicle