BREAKING: B.C. to delay second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four month mark | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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BREAKING: B.C. to delay second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four month mark

Health minister Adrian Dix looks on as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides an update on COVID-19, Monday, April 6, 2020.
Image Credit: Province of B.C
March 01, 2021 - 10:51 AM

By mid-July, much of B.C. could be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The province explained today, March 1, how the COVID-19 immunization program will roll out in the months ahead and revealed the decision to stretch out the second dose until the four-month mark, which will bump everyone awaiting a vaccine up in the queue.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the decision to delay the booster vaccine was just made this weekend once some additional data from the UK came in and bolstered their own findings.

“I will say, as well, that the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also considered all of this data and will be coming out very shortly with statements that we expect will align with what we're doing,” she said.

The data has indicated the vaccine offers protection in even older more frail populations for up to four months and that, she said, is almost miraculous.

“From what we know about immunology and how our immune system works, there's actually potentially some benefit from delaying the booster dose. It gives you a stronger and more long-lasting protection, so that may help us going into next year's cough colds and flu season — respiratory virus season — because we’re still not sure what's going to be happening with this virus.”

That allows the vaccination schedule to be moved up, meaning those young people who weren’t going to be scheduled for a vaccine until summer could likely have one by late spring.

Additionally, new vaccines are coming online and that may change the situation as well.

While it's good news, Premier John Horgan cautioned it's not the end of the story.

"We still have a long long way to go," Horgan said. "That means we need to continue to practice the principles that Dr. Henry has put in place over the past number of months, that we remain physically distanced, we keep our groups as small as possible. We don't come to work when we're sick, we wear masks whenever we can inside and in fact, whenever we are out and about, for a walk for mental health breaks and so on.

"The challenges that we have all endured over the past 12 months have been profound. But the challenges ahead are equally profound and although there is fantastic news on the horizon, it depends on supply."

That said, B.C. is dependent on offshore supplies of vaccines to meet our targets, Horgan said.

"The federal government has been working overtime to ensure we get access to those vaccines. But there is no domestic supplier that we can put pressure on. This is a global pandemic," he said. 

"This is a scarce commodity that is in high demand in every corner of the planet. That means that we have to do our level best to focus on staying safe and keeping our families, our communities in our province in a good place as we roll out the plan."

In what health officials say is the largest immunization rollout in the province’s history, Phase 2 will see vaccines will this week start going into arms of 400,000 elderly, men and women who live in congregate settings and Indigenous people at a ramped up rate.

“We will break March up into two segments because that allows the health authorities to really organize themselves,” Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout team said today.

In the first two weeks, those living and working in independent living centres and seniors supportive housing, as well as home-care support clients and staff will be contacted for vaccines. In the Interior, many people living in these communities have already been contacted and their vaccine has been scheduled.

“The latter half of March and into the first two weeks of April will really be devoted largely to the first age cohort of the general public and that includes the population 80 and over, and Indigenous people,” Dr. Ballem said.

That will be a little more complicated.

“We have a system that will be Health Authority specific for this group for a number of reasons… We have a lot of experience vaccinating seniors over 80. This will mean there will be community clinics in local neighbourhoods and community centres," she said.

For that group, a call-in system will be put in place March 8 and those eligible can book appointments for vaccinations, which will be starting March 15. Once people call, they’ll be sorted into subgroups based on age/year of birth to allow call centre to manage volume.

“They're familiar with that and we wanted to keep that familiarity,” Dr. Ballem said.

By Phase 3, Dr. Ballem said they will be opening some pretty large mass vaccination settings.

That phase will start in mid-April, and will be for people aged 79 to 60 years, and people aged 16-plus who are extremely clinically vulnerable.

In Phase 3, British Columbians will register and book their appointments to receive their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine through an online registration tool. People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79-75), and Indigenous people born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64-60), will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31.


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