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The latest information on COVID-19 vaccination plans and progress on Vancouver Island
As BC's vaccination effort marches toward a goal of reaching 70% of the population, we are keeping track of the numbers and any significant updates. This page will be kept up to date and new information will be added over time, so please check back for the most current vaccination numbers and other COVID-19 information.
British Columbians who received AstraZeneca for their first vaccine dose have long been wondering which shots to get for their second dose, after the product was pulled from first dose distribution by Health Canada due to a rare risk of blood clots.
The answer? The choice is yours.
On Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that once it has been eight weeks after the first dose, people who got AstraZeneca will be contacted by their pharmacy, inviting them to book the same vaccine for their second dose.
They will also receive a text or email invitation from the provincial vaccine registry inviting them to book one of the mRNA vaccines—Pfizer or Moderna—for their second dose. People will then be able to choose one or the other, depending on their personal preference.
Dr. Henry clarified that there is no difference in real world effectiveness between second doses of AstraZeneca and the mRNA vaccines.
Those who choose to mix and match doses may have slightly worse short-term side effects after their second dose—like a sore arm, fever, etc.
The provincial health officer said she herself prefers to stick with the same product for both doses, but says some people may not want AstraZeneca for their second dose due to personal risk assessments.
However she also pointed out that the risk of rare blood clots linked to AstraZeneca reduces significantly for the second dose of the vaccine.
BC's current supply of AstraZeneca is expected to expire in late June. The plan is to start administering those vaccines as second doses come Monday, June 7.
Dr. Henry also emphasized that pharmacies will contact people even if it might take a little longer than expected, and individuals should not be calling their pharmacies to ask for their second dose.
BC's immunization program has hit another milestone and, with more supply on the way, provincial health authorities have pivoted their strategy to make things go even faster.
Over 3 million British Columbians have been vaccinated as of Thursday, May 27, accounting for 62% of the eligible population.
On the same day, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the interval between the first and second doses of vaccine is being halved, from 16 weeks down to 8, moving forward.
At the top of the priority list for second doses are seniors, Indigenous peoples, and those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV). Approximately 400,000 people who are either seniors aged 70+ or in the CEV category will receive their invites to book second doses between Thursday and this weekend.
Second doses are already being offered in long term care and assisted living facilities, and to healthcare workers—groups that received their first doses early on.
The province will also be setting up second dose clinics in communities that were targeted for population-wide immunization. That includes places like Prince Rupert, as well as remote Indigenous communities.
In terms of supply, Dr. Henry noted that some people who received Moderna for their first dose may have to take Pfizer for their second dose due to an uncertain supply of Moderna. Health guidance states that it is safe to mix and match mRNA vaccines.
Those who received AstraZeneca for their first dose need to wait a few more days for guidance on whether or not it's safe to get an mRNA vaccine for their second dose.
However there are enough AstraZeneca vaccines set aside for second doses in BC and will not expire until the end of June, in case federal guidance ends up indicating that mixing and matching mRNA and AstraZeneca is not safe.
The expectation is that by the end of August, everyone in BC will be able to get fully immunized with both doses.
In less than a month, the number of people in the Vancouver Island health region who have received at least one dose of the vaccine have nearly doubled—and the immunization program is only speeding up faster.
This week, BC announced children aged 12 to 17 years old are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine and can register for their shot on the province's online registration portal.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Thursday the province wants to make sure families can go get vaccinated at clinics together.
Children who are eligible to get vaccinated can go to the same appointment as their parent or guardian, but each child who registers will still get a text or email advising them to book their shot. Children don't need their parents' consent to get vaccinated.
Other than in a handful of targeted communities—which have not yet been specified—schools will not be COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites. The main rationale behind this, according to Dr . Henry, is that it takes a lot of resources to set up a vaccine delivery site and preparing one in every BC school is not possible to do in an equitable manner.
Instead, provisions will be made for children and families to get immunized at clinics that already exist. Some of these provisions include extending hours at these clinics. Dr. Henry also said she has received feedback from families who say they want to get vaccinated together.
Increasing hours and offering doses over the weekend are possible because supply of Pfizer vaccine in particular is ramping up significantly, and is expected to speed up even more come June.
Pfizer has been the main vaccine delivered across BC and on Vancouver Island. Over half of all doses administered across the province have been Pfizer. In the Island Health region, the brand accounts for more than 73% of all doses.
Island Health has reached a new milestone this week in its vaccine delivery: more than 250,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the region as of April 25.
This means about 35% of the region's eligible population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
For a brief window in early April, the Island's immunization program was ramped up with the introduction of the AstraZeneca vaccine that could be administered to anyone aged 40 and above through pharmacies.
However as of last week, the supply of AstraZeneca intended for the island was redirected to the mainland, where they are being used to immunize people in COVID-19 hotspot regions.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and health minister Adrian Dix also confirmed on Monday that the province is not expecting any further shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine this week. The existing current supply of approximately 100,000 doses will be used in the lower mainland this week.
In the Island Health region, the vast majority of vaccinations have been delivered through the province's age-based program, using the Pfizer vaccine. To date, about 72% of all shots in the region have been Pfizer.
On Monday, Dr. Henry also announced that Canada—and BC—will be receiving a shipment of the single-dose, fridge-stable Johnson & Johnson vaccine at some point next week.
The province is currently working on finalizing how they plan to deliver those doses.
In a major update to the province's immunization rollout strategy, BC health authorities announced Thursday that over 300,000 frontline workers will be eligible to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine as early as April.
The groups identified to get their shots through the parallel program—operating alongside the age-based rollout plan for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines—are:
- 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.
The majority of the 340,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses the province is slated to receive by the end of May have thus far been allocated to the Fraser Health, Northern Health, and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, where outbreaks have been rampant in workplaces and industrial camps.
For now, the Island Health region will receive 1,000 doses of the vaccine to immunize people working in four large food production facilities.
These shots will be administered by pharmacies, immunization clinics, and mobile clinics. Those who qualify to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in this phase will be contacted by health authorities and are asked to not call regional phone lines to book a vaccine appointment.
Across the province, 272,000 people have been identified to get immunized in the first phase starting in April. Another 69,000 people will be offered the AstraZeneca vaccine in late May and June.
"We have made significant progress after some initial challenges and we can proudly say that we are on track to have everyone immunized by this summer," said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of the province's immunization rollout.
With the added boost of the AstraZeneca vaccine plan, health authorities are now expecting to offer every adult in BC at least one dose of vaccine by July 1, moving the original timeline closer by a month.
According to Dr. Ballem, daily immunization rates have ramped up to approximately 20,000 shots per day, and the province is well underway to have immunized every First Nations site and reserve communities by the end of May.
People in their 70s can start calling in to book their shots, staggered by age, starting on March 20. The new schedule is as follows:
- age 79 and Indigenous people 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
Timelines for people aged 70-74 will be announced in the coming days.
Come April 6, the province will be shutting down phone lines for booking vaccines at the five individual health authorities.
They will be replaced by a singular provincial booking line and an online registration system that will stay in place until everyone has been fully vaccinated.
This same system will be used to track and report the province's rollout.
This week is a momentous one in BC as public health authorities launched their province-wide immunization campaign for the first cohort of the general public on Monday, March 8—exactly one year after BC recorded its first COVID-19 related death.
Seniors 90 and over and Indigenous people over 65 living in the community can now call a phone line—each health authority has a different one—to book their shots between 7am and 7pm on weekdays.
In the Island Health region, residents who are eligible can call 1-833-348-4787 to book their shots, with the first immunizations scheduled for March 15. During this phase of the rollout, the health authority has set up immunization clinics at five sites in Greater Victoria:
• Archie Browning Sports Centre in Esquimalt
• UVic Mckinnon Gym in Saanich
• Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney
• SEAPARC Leisure Complex in Sooke
• Eagle Ridge Arena in Langford.
Provincial health authorities say the response has already been overwhelming, with more than 1.4 million calls calls being logged across the province within the first 90 minutes. They are now urging patience and, to control the volume of calls, asking that only one caller per eligible vaccine recipient dial the line, and to not call if you are not eligible to receive the vaccine.
“Our call takers have been privy to some very emotional calls," said a spokesperson for Island Health. “One anecdote was shared by a call taker who spoke with an elderly gentleman who broke down in tears because himself and his wife were eligible and it was coming to reality. The reaction across the Province today I think points to the anticipation and excitement around this immunization program.”
The health authority has just 100 spots in its call cue for this phase of the vaccine rollout—with thousands of eligible callers eager for their appointment.
“Our call centre has been inundated just like all other health authorities so far today,” the spokesperson said.
Once March 15 comes around, each vaccine administrator is expected to provide 12 shots per hour on average. For the recipients, Island Health expects the entire process of getting immunized will take around 30 minutes in total: 15 minutes to sign in, wait, and receive the dose, and another 15 minutes to be monitored for any side effects or allergic reactions.
Mass vaccination sites will have around 15 to 20 stations with staff on hand, medium-sized clinics—including the ones in Sooke and Sidney—will have 10 to 15 stations; and the smallest clinics including the ones in Ladysmith, Comox Valley, Tofino, Port Alice, Port Hardy, and Port MacNeil will have less than 10 stations.
The expectation is that 40,000 people in the Island Health region will receive at least one dose of the vaccine between March 15 and April 12.
The last week of February brought with it some good news on immunizations in BC: according to health minister Adrian Dix, 92% of all long term care home residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 39% have had both shots.
This week also gave a glimpse into how and where vaccines will roll out to the general public—and who will be administering them. But first, let's discuss the results of the first round of vaccinations.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry noted on Tuesday that just one dose the mRNA vaccine appears to provide about 80% protection against the pandemic virus—a figure that appears to be proven by already-lowering cases in long-term care homes. In the past 24 hours, there were no deaths and no new outbreaks at any long term care facility across BC.
To date, the province has administered nearly 80% of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply received by public health officials. Over the next few weeks, BC will begin hosting mass immunization clinics in various municipalities across the province as vaccine supply is expected to ramp up.
To start, seniors over age 80 who live outside of care facilities will start being immunized in the next two weeks. According to Dr. Henry, since not everyone that age has the access or ability to be notified of their vaccine eligibility over the internet or by phone, a range of approaches will be taken.
Some people will still get calls, but others might receive their vaccine invite via postcard in the mail, or be informed by doctors in specialized clinics they have access to. More information on how vaccines will be delivered to this demographic will be provided on Monday, March 1.
In preparation to staff mass immunization clinics, Dr. Henry issued a new Provincial Health Order on Tuesday. This order will allow people working in a number of different healthcare roles—including dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, retired nurses, and others—to work in these clinics over the next six months.
The province is also now working to identify sites where these clinics will be held. According to Dix, municipalities will soon start revealing which arenas, community centres, schools, and other sites have been designated for vaccine delivery.
A coordinated system of registering patients' vaccination records, including which type of COVID-19 vaccine they were administered and when, that can be accessible to provincial health officials, patients, and their physicians, is also in the works.
"There's going to be some hiccups and bumps," said Dr. Henry, urging patience as authorities work to figure out how to pull off the largest mass vaccination effort in the history of the province.
In the third week of February, vaccine shipments to BC have begun to ramp up after weeks of delays from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The period between Feb. 18 and 19 marked the highest number of vaccine doses delivered in BC to date, as 12,251 more people were immunized by Friday—far surpassing the previous record on Jan. 7 when around 7,000 people were vaccinated.
A little over half of those shots went to people who had already received their first dose of the vaccine, as the province continues to try and reach their goal of giving people their second doses of the vaccine within 42 days.
The current guidance asks vaccine administrators to deliver the second dose to people within 42 days, but says if there is a longer delay the second shot should be administered as soon as possible and the series doesn't need to be restarted.
Researchers in BC and in other jurisdictions are currently exploring the possibility of extending that delay by to up to 90 days.
According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, a delay of several weeks between the first and second doses doesn't appear to have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the vaccines.
"As our body is building up antibodies... after the first dose, that is sustained for a period of weeks. It may, in fact... result, in the end, in a stronger and more long lasting protection," she said earlier this week.
This longer buffer also means any operational delays in getting a hold of the vaccine—like supply issues from the manufacturer or inclement weather that prevents authorities from transporting shipments—could be better managed.
Evidence that immunizations are working to prevent COVID-19 transmission in BC is already here, as health officials note fewer cases in healthcare facilities when there are outbreaks.
Now that everyone in long term care and assisted living facilities has been offered immunization, health authorities are focusing on vaccinating the general population.
Minister Dix announced on Friday that people aged 80 years and above who have home care support will receive the vaccine between March 1 and 15. People in the same age category who do not have home care support will be next to get vaccinated, between March 16 and 31.
Today, Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that in addition to no Pfizer vaccine shipments in BC this week and reduced doses coming over the next two weeks, the expected shipment of Moderna vaccine next week has been reduced by 20% due to difficulties at their processing plant.
Despite shortages, the province is confident they will meet the Phase 1 and 2 targets for immunization after assurances from the federal government that shortfalls in supply will be made up before the end of March.
In good news, residents and caregivers at every long term care facility in BC have been offered the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. While some were not eligible to receive it—like people who were recently diagnosed with the virus—Dr. Henry says interest in getting vaccinated is as high as 100% in some care homes.
Three days after unveiling an ambitious immunization plan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Monday that there has been another delay in the number of Pfizer vaccines the province is expected to receive in coming weeks.
BC will not be receive any further shipments of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines this week. The expected supply of Pfizer vaccine in the first week of February has been "dramatically reduced," Dr. Henry said.
Further, Dr. Henry said there is no information on how many vaccines, if any, the province will receive in the second and third weeks of February, either.
As a result, public health officials have decided to delay second doses to 42 days, instead of the original 35—which was already going beyond the 21-28 day recommended period.
According to Dr. Henry, this new revised strategy is being undertaken to ensure what little vaccines the province currently has will be enough to immunize all staff and residents at long-term care facilities and to address outbreaks at hospitals and communities.
"We know that addressing these in particular—the most vulnerable people in our communities and in our acute care system—will protect all of us going forward. This is about putting out fires before they get out of control," she said at the press briefing on Monday.
To date, approximately 60% of vaccine doses acquired by the province have been administered to staff and residents at long-term care and assisted-living facilities. Everyone at long-term care and assisted-living facilities in Island Health region, Vancouver Coastal Health region and Fraser Health region has received at least one dose of vaccine.
The province expects to have immunized the same populations in Interior and Northern health regions by Wednesday this week.
Dr. Henry also announced the results of health authorities tracking how many adverse reactions there have been to the vaccines so far in BC.
So far there have been 56 reports of adverse reactions—out of approximately 120,000 administered vaccine doses—including one hospitalization, and one report of paralysis of part of the face.
There have been no deaths reported as a result of COVID-19 vaccine and those who had allergic or adverse reactions have all recovered.
With a significant delay in the province's immunization plan on the horizon, and reports of two new variants of the virus that have already arrived in BC which could cause a massive uptick in cases and hospitalizations if left unchecked, Dr. Henry had one main message for British Columbians: "Remember that COVID-19 is still that unwelcome guest in our home, our workplaces, in our communities," she said.
"I'm asking you now as much as possible, more than you've ever done before, to stay home, to stop those social interactions."
December 2020-February 2021
February to March 2021
April to June 2021
People aged 16 to 69 years old deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable”. These include:
April to May 2021
May to July 2021
July to September 2021
NOTE: Once more vaccines, like AstraZeneca and Janssen, are approved, the province’s immunization plan may be amended to expedite vaccines for people aged 18 to 64 who are classified as essential front-line workers in specific industries. These groups may then be prioritized to get vaccinated between April and June.
BC health officials have unveiled a comprehensive immunization plan for the next nine months in which they expect 4.3 million people across the province will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of September 2021.
A whopping 7.4 million doses of vaccine will be required to complete the largest mass immunization project the province has ever undertaken.
In this four-phase plan, the province takes an age-based approach to deciding who gets vaccinated and when, rather than including priority groups. Children aged 17 and under will not be eligible to get vaccinated in the next nine months.
The one exemption is in Phase 3 (April to June), people aged 16 to 69 years old who are designated as "clinically extremely vulnerable"—including organ transplant recipients, those who have specific cancers, severe respiratory illnesses, and rare diseases—will be eligible to receive a vaccine.
In late February, health officials will announce how BC residents can pre-register, online or over the phone, to get immunized. People will be able to pre-register two to four weeks before they're eligible.
Between April and September, Vancouver Island Health Authority is expected to vaccinate 16,900 people every day. The province says they will need 120 workers administering vaccines to reach this target.
Immunization clinics will be set up in large centres, including school gymnasiums, arenas, conventional centres, and community halls, across 172 communities in BC.
Mobile clinics in vehicles will also be delivering vaccines to remote communities and to vulnerable people who are housebound.
Everyone who gets vaccinated will get a paper copy of their immunization record, and also be able to sign up for the Provincial Health Gateway through which they can access their digital records.
Even if all goes according to plan with no further delays, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says BC most likely won't be able to return to normal levels of social interaction until the fall.
The provincial government has promised detailed breakdowns of how many vaccines will be delivered by each health authority starting Wednesday, Jan 20.
Last week, the province received 46,467 doses of vaccine, including 28,275 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 18,400 doses of the Moderna vaccine.
This week, BC is expecting 24,325 more doses of Pfizer and 2,400 doses of Moderna.
However, deliveries to BC will slow down over the next two weeks due to Pfizer's decision to temporarily reduce shipments to Canada.
Despite the delay, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province will still be on track to vaccinate most of the province's at-risk population by March and start general population immunization in April.
So far, 80% of all long term care home staff members in the Lower Mainland have been vaccinated. The immunization rollout has been more challenging in the Island, Interior, and Northern health authorities where the care homes are spread further apart and where fewer doses were delivered.
Dr. Henry says the goal is to immunize all LTC and assisted living staff members in BC by next week.
With files from Brishti Basu and Jimmy Thomson
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