Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

Medical personnel wear protective gear to wheel a patient into St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel

B.C.’s earliest COVID-19 vaccines go to health care workers first

Aim is to immunize 400,000 people by end of March

More COVID-19 vaccine will be needed to arrest the pandemic spread in B.C., but the first people to be immunized will receive it next week, public health officials say.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix described the early days of the coronavirus vaccine plan Wednesday, with 4,000 doses of frozen Pfizer vaccine arriving at two sites in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health next week packed in dry ice.

Health care workers in long-term care and the acute wards dealing with sick COVID-19 patients are priority one, followed by long-term care residents, seniors over 80 years old in the community, and those at risk because of chronic conditions, including people in Vancouver homeless shelters and in first nations communities where chronic health conditions are also prevalent.

“We’re going to take our limited doses in the first few weeks to months of this program and try to protect as many people as possible,” Henry told reporters in Victoria Dec. 9. “With the doses we expect to have between now and the end of March, we should be able to immunize close to 400,000 people in B.C. That is not enough to stop the pandemic. It’s not enough to prevent transmission in our communities widely, and to stop the pandemic in its tracks.

“But I think once we get past March and we get more vaccines, and different vaccines in higher numbers, that’s when we are going to be able to reach that threshold.”

After people with chronic conditions and poor housing, the next priority will be some paramedics, firefighters, people with higher exposure such as grocery store workers, food processing staff and teachers. Henry was asked why emergency workers and teachers aren’t higher priority.

“We are not seeing transmission in schools,” Henry said. “We are not seeing firefighters exposed.”

The Pfizer vaccine is the first approved by Health Canada, and it requires low-temperature storage. As with the Moderna vaccine expected to be approved next, it is not yet tested for use on people under 16, pregnant or with compromised immune systems. Henry said later vaccines with more conventional formulas are expected to be approved soon, which can be used for these groups.

RELATED: B.C. counts 619 new cases, 16 more deaths Wednesday

RELATED: Rapid testing pilot program is all B.C. can do now

Dr. Ross Brown, director of regional emergency operations at Vancouver Coastal Health, is the incident commander of B.C.’s roll-out, with a background in military operations. He said the vaccine program will scale up to seven locations by the end of January.

“Our approach will be slow, steady and nimble at the beginning, and ramping up as more vaccine becomes available,” Brown said. “We consider this a no-fail mission, and we will get it done.”


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureBC politicsCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Administrative headquarters for the Regional District of Central Okanagan in Kelowna. (File photo)
Tempers fly over a pricey picnic shelter in the North Westside

Lack of detail on $121,000 shelter expenditure further incites self-governance wishes

Preliminary designs of the new West Kelowna city hall, which is about to begin the design phase. (City of West Kelowna)
West Kelowna to choose architect for design of new city hall, library

The project is projected to cost $18M by the time it is completed in winter, 2022

(Pixabay photo)
Black Press Weekly Roundup: Top headlines of the week

In case you missed it, here’s what made waves throughout the week

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

After a Vernon resident tried to domesticate a pair of gopher snakes, BC Conservation Service reminded that it is against the law to keep wild animals in one’s possession. (Yuval Levy/Unsplash)
Wild gopher snakes aren’t pets: Vernon conservation officer

After resident kept two gopher snakes in home, conservation reminds it’s illegal to domesticate wildlife

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read