Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday that she expects children between the ages of five and 11 to have access to COVID-19 vaccines before the holidays next month.
During the province's weekly briefing on the pandemic, Henry addressed the news that Moderna has made a request for its COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in younger children, making it the second pediatric vaccine awaiting authorization in Canada after Pfizer-BioNTech.
"We are counting on Health Canada to do their due diligence. I know that they are doing that right now," she said.
Henry said she expects shots to be available for registered children before Christmas.
She noted that the vaccines under consideration are specially formulated for young children, with smaller doses meant to reduce pain, discomfort and side effects.
Henry also confirmed that the province has received its first shipment of about 5,000 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, originally marketed as a one-shot product. The priority for those doses will be those health-care workers who have objected to being vaccinated with the other shots available to date.
However, she acknowledged that the devastating flooding that has hit parts of southern B.C. has created some "challenges" for moving vaccines into the province, and because of road closures, alternative transportation options will be necessary.
Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that flooding has also required 150 patients to be moved from hospitals in affected areas, and another 48 transfers will be necessary.
He also provided an update on the health-care resource crunch in Northern Health, which has been particularly hard hit during the fourth wave of the pandemic. Since Sept 5, 123 people have had to be airlifted out of the region for treatment, the majority of whom were unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, Henry announced that B.C. has its first three confirmed cases of the new delta variant sub-lineage AY 4.2 in a family cluster in the Fraser Health region. The so-called "delta plus" variant has previously been seen in other parts of Western Canada.
"The strains of the delta variant we're seeing are spreading much faster and causing more serious illness in younger people," Henry said.
"Our best defence continues to be vaccination."
She also addressed ongoing regional restrictions in Interior Health and parts of Fraser Health and Northern Health, saying the future of those rules is currently under discussion. She said she expects that additional restrictions will continue to be necessary in areas where transmission is high and vaccination rates are low.
More health-care workers vaccinated
Dix said 90.7 per cent of people over the age of 12 have now received their first shot of vaccine in B.C., while 86.8 per cent have received a second dose.
He said the number of unvaccinated health-care workers in B.C. has fallen again to 2,885, which means 98 per cent have received a first dose, and 97 per cent have received two shots.
As of Monday afternoon, there were 3,837 active cases of the novel coronavirus in B.C., and hospitalization numbers were declining.
Earlier Tuesday, Fraser Health announced a new outbreak at Ridge Meadows Hospital, where six patients in one unit have tested positive for the virus.
The health authority said outbreaks have been declared over at Mission Memorial Hospital, the Swedish Assisted Living Residence in Burnaby and Cherington Place in Surrey.
Meanwhile, Pfizer has also signed a deal to allow other manufacturers to make its experimental COVID-19 antiviral pill, a move that could make the treatment available to more than half of the world's population.