Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer in British Columbia, announced Monday that COVID-19 vaccine doses for the Pfzier-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered 16 weeks (four months) apart.
"The important thing that we have learned is that these vaccines work, they give a very high level of protection and that protection lasts for many months," Dr. Henry said.
According to the provincial health officer, evidence shows that about three weeks after a single dose of the vaccines, efficacy is at about 90 per cent.
"We have a great deal of confidence in these vaccine that they are safe and effective," Dr. Henry said.
This announcement comes as the province outlines its plan for the second phase of vaccine distribution, which will see 400,000 people vaccinated in March and early April.
Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team, indicated the expectation is that the entire provincial population will be able to receive a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by mid- to late July.
Between March 1 and March 15, the following groups can receive a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.:
High-risk individuals living in various congregate settings
Health care workers - hospital and community
High-risk seniors living in independent living (staff included)
High-risk seniors supportive housing client
Long-term home support clients and staff
Between March 15 and April 11, the general population 80 and older and Indigenous peoples 65 and older will be vaccinated, with the call-in system launching March 8 to book appointments March 15 and later.
Individuals 80 and older will be separated into three subgroups to help manage call volumes:
March 8: Call centre open to British Columbians born in or before 1931 and Indigenous peoples born in or before 1956, with vaccinations staring on March 15
March 15: Call centre open to British Columbians born in or before 1936, with vaccinations starting on March 22
March 22: Call centre open to British Columbians born in or before 1941, with vaccinations starting on March 29
A family members, friend or support person can call to make an appointment for anyone who is eligible to receive a vaccine.
As the province moves into the the third and fourth phases of vaccine distribution, Dr. Ballem stressed that this timeline will likely change, particularly after B.C. finds out how many doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine they will receive. She indicated that about 70,000 extra first doses will be made available following the extension in the approved time between the first and second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The third phase of the vaccine rollout plan will begin in mid-April and at that point, an online platform will be available for vaccine appointment bookings.
Mass immunization clinics and mobile clinics will also be available for individuals, including people in remote communities.
Dr. Henry revealed that there will be a "limited" amount of choice in terms of what vaccine people in B.C. will receive. She explained that first responders and essential workers will have a choice to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in the "near term" or they can wait for their age group to receive the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Although the province continues to vaccinate its population, B.C.'s provincial health officer stressed that everyone needs to continue to follow the public health rules in place for "a little bit longer."
"We are now in those final miles of this marathon," Dr. Henry said.
"We know there’s an end point in sight and it is weeks and months, not some nebulous grey, next year, maybe. This is where we need to all just focus and support each other a little bit longer."