First responders, teachers in line to receive AstraZeneca vaccine

·3 min read

About 322,000 people who are members of priority groups will be eligible to receive the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. starting in April.

These groups include:

• first responders (police, firefighters, emergency transport);

• K-12 educational staff;

• child care staff;

• grocery store workers;

• postal workers;

• bylaw and quarantine officers;

• manufacturing workers;

• wholesale/warehousing employees;

• staff living in congregate housing at places such as ski hills;

• correctional facilities staff; and

• cross-border transport staff.

These groups were identified as workers who cannot work remotely, where outbreaks are already happening, who can’t work with full protective equipment or barriers in place or who live in congregate settings.

These sectors or settings prioritized for the AstraZeneca vaccine are in addition to the workplaces previously identified by public health where vaccines are being used to assist with outbreak response. Currently in B.C., the first shipment of AstraZeneca is being deployed to protect people in workplaces identified as having the highest risk of COVID-19 transmission, including:

• food processing plants, including poultry, fruit and fish processing;

• agricultural operations with congregate worker accommodations, including farms, nurseries and greenhouses; and

• large industrial camps with congregate accommodations for workers.

The province expects to receive about 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by late May, and will use a combination of community pharmacists in addition to existing immunization clinics and mobile clinics at some worksites.

"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,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

Henry added that for each group, public health teams will reach out to develop a plan for vaccination booking and administration. Members of priority groups are asked not to call into the age-based hotline numbers.

The age-based vaccine rollout using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is also accelerating and moving forward ahead of schedule. The next age cohort, beginning with people aged 79 and older and Indigenous peoples aged 55 and older, is eligible to call as early as Saturday (March 20).

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

• age 79 and Indigenous peoples 55 and older - Saturday, March 20 at noon

• age 78 – Monday, March 22 at noon

• age 77 – Tuesday, March 23 at noon

• age 76 – Thursday, March 25 at noon

• age 75 – Saturday, March 27 at noon

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

Beginning on April 6, people can book their appointments through a single call centre or book online. Health officials anticipate being able to offer every eligible British Columbian a first dose by the end of June.

Second doses will be offered “in a structured way consistent with the evidence, as Dr. Henry has indicated,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of B.C.’s vaccine program.

Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel