COVID-19: B.C. enters Phase 2 of immunization program and reveals details for further vaccinations

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      British Columbia is entering its second phase of its immunization program and, if all goes according to plans, every eligible adult in British Columbia should be able to receive their first dose by the end of July.

      B.C. immunization executive lead Dr. Penny Ballem, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and B.C. Premier John Horgan spoke at a news conference today (March 1) to discuss details about how the next phases of the province’s immunization program will proceed.

      Phase 2 and 3

      In Phase 2 of the immunization program, over 400,000 British Columbians will be vaccinated from March to early April.

      Those who will receive vaccines in this phase will be:

      • seniors, high-risk people, and staff in independent living and seniors supportive housing—starting today (March 1);
      • homecare support clients and staff—starting today (March 1);
      • Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years and above);
      • seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and above).

      Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years and above) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years and above) who don’t reside in independent living or supportive housing can call their local health authority call centre, starting on March 8, to book an appointment.

      Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years or above) can begin calling on March 15 to book an appointment.

      Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and above) can begin calling on March 22 to book an appointment.

      Health authority contact information, complete call-in schedules, hours of operations and step-by-step instructions on how to call to book an appointment for themselves, for a family member, for a friend or neighbour will be available online on March 8, 2021.

      More information for seniors is available online.

      Left to right: B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C. immunization executive lead Dr. Penny Ballem, Health Minister Adrian Dix, and B.C. Premier John Horgan
      Province of British Columbia

      Phase 3, starting in mid-April, will involve vaccinations of those 79 to 60 years old, and individuals (16 years and above) who are immunocompromised. Mobile clinics will become available in some rural locations and for those homebound with mobility issues.

      People born between 1942 and 1946 (ages 79 to 75) and Indigenous people born between the years of 1956 and 1960 (ages 64 to 60) will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31.

      Information required will include first and last name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number (on driver’s license, B.C. Services Card, or B.C. Care Card), and contact information (phone number, email, or contact person).

      Ballem pointed out that that health authority call centres will never ask for social insurance number, drivers license number, banking information, or credit card information.

      Ballem said that other jurisdictions have had to deal with receiving calls from people attempting to get vaccinated sooner than they are eligible for. She explained that it’s important for people not to do this as she said it interferes with getting the most vulnerable people vaccinated as efficiently as possible.

      The schedule is staggered to prevent call centres from being overwhelmed with calls.

      Henry had previously issued a provincial health order to expand health professionals who can administer the vaccine (with training) to include dentists, midwives, pharmacy technicians, paramedics, firefighters, and retired nurses. Health professionals who want to sign up as immunizers can do so online.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      Dose extensions

      Henry said that public health has been monitoring the effectiveness of vaccine in B.C. (as well as data from other locations in Canada and around the world), and have found that the vaccines give a high level of protection that lasts for several months, including a single dose (which can provide up to 90 percent efficacy after three weeks).

      Accordingly, Henry said that public health will be extending interval between first and second doses to four months (16 weeks). B.C. had been administering second doses by 42 days (six weeks) after the first dose. 

      She said this provides the benefit of reaching more people.

      “That means we can move everybody up the list and more people will be protected sooner,” she explained.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.