B.C.’s mass immunization will begin in April, and the provincial government has pledged that all eligible residents will have access to both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by the fall.
At a news conference early Friday, Premier John Horgan said between April and September the everyone who wants a vaccine will have one. There are about 4.3 million eligible people in B.C.
Horgan was joined by Minister of Health Adrian Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading the COVID-19 immunization rollout.
“We will do this based on age, starting with out oldest citizens first who are most at risk,” said Henry. “This needs to be an all of B.C. effort.”
Henry said they also hope other vaccines will become available as the rollout begins but for now the estimates are based on the vaccines that are available.
Health officials say there 172 clinics will be set up in March in communities across B.C., and the government will launch a communication campaign to ensure people know where the clinics will be located.
Henry said they do no expect the concept of a “vaccine passport” will be necessary and that the proof of vaccination is mainly just for patients’ own records.
She added that she did not know whether proof of vaccine would be required to travel internationally but said people in B.C. will not be denied services based on whether they have been vaccinated.
Meantime, nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine that B.C. expected to arrive by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production delays in the supply from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Two doses of the vaccine are needed to ensure immunity from the virus that causes COVID-19 and Dix said earlier this week that B.C. was set to begin administering second doses.
On Thursday, the province said it had administered 104,901 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, of which 1,680 were second doses.
-with a file from The Canadian Press
Some clinics will be mobile, while others will be set up in gymnasium and community centres. There will also be home visits to support those who are unable to go to the clinics.
The timeline is provisional based on vaccine delivery, but health officials estimate they will start vaccinating the 75 to 79 age group in the second half of March.
There will be a consideration for younger residents with high-risk clinical factors for adverse outcomes from COVID-19 infection such as cancer, asthma, and severe respiratory conditions including all cystic fibrosis patients. These patients, who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, will be eligible at the same time as the age 70 to 74 category, likely starting in April.
Based on the government estimate, residents aged 40 and up should have access to both doses of the vaccine by August, while anyone under 40 to 18 years old should have access to both doses by the end of September.
Currently, there is no vaccine approved for use in youth, expect some older teenagers with chronic conditions.
Starting in mid-to-late February, health authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous Elders to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.
More information will be released later on how to pre-register, and patients will be reminded when they are due for their second dose of the vaccine.
Residents will be given proof of vaccination with paper and digital copies.