Dr. Bonnie Henry has announced that hundreds of thousands of B.C. COVID-19 vaccine recipients will receive delayed booster shots.
At a media briefing today, B.C.'s provincial health officer revealed that second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna immunizations will be given approximately 35 days after the first shot in many cases.
Henry justified this as a means of protecting the largest number possible, given the supply of vaccines coming to B.C.
Her declaration came on the same day that Pfizer and BioNTech issued a warning—there's no evidence that their vaccine will be effective against COVID-19 if the booster is not delivered within 21 days. The Moderna vaccine requires a booster shot after 28 days, according to the company.
Health Canada granted emergency authorization to the two vaccines based on their clinical trials.
They demonstrated that the vaccines had a 95 percent efficacy rate when booster shots were administered within the specified time periods.
Henry, however, highlighted the benefits of delaying booster shots.
Given the projected supply of vaccines, it will enable hundreds of thousands more people to receive their first shots.
"We know additional vaccines are coming in February and March," Henry said.
The province's goal is to immunize 150,000 people from December through the end of February.
Of those, 70,000 are staff and residents in long-term care homes.
Another 13,000 people need to be vaccinated in assisted living; 2,000 more will be vaccinated as they await long-term care placement.
In addition, 8,000 essential visitors to long-term care and assisted-living homes are in the queue.
Henry added that 30,000 hospital health-care workers, paramedics, and public-health staff are in line to be vaccinated during this period.
As well, 25,000 people living in remote First Nations communities will be on the priority list.
After these groups are vaccinated, there's another 400,000 British Columbians who will become high priorities. They are:
* 260,000 people who are over 80 and Indigenous people who are over 65 in the community;
* 40,000 people who are homeless or living in shelters;
* 60,000 long-term home-support recipients and staff;
* 20,000 hospital staff, community health workers, general practitioners, and medical specialists;
* and 25,000 living in First Nations communities.
This will mean that approximately 550,000 will receive their first dose of a vaccine by the end of March. That will leave room for 242,000 second doses.
After that, the province will begin vaccinating groups going backward in age cohorts of five years. This means that people in the community over 75 years of age will be next in line to be vaccinated.
Prior to the question-and-answer session, there was no mention when younger cancer survivors would be vaccinated.
Nor was there any mention of when those with cardiovascular diseases or autoimmune diseases—such as Type 1 diabetes or multiple sclerosis—can receive immunizations from COVID-19.
As of January 4, B.C. has received 54,625 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. Of those, 20,500 were the Moderna vaccines.
Another 16,575 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are expected to arrive this week.
"They are not our usual fridge-stable vaccines that we are used to handling," Henry said. "They are very delicate."
The novel coronavirus continues to cause heartache for families across B.C.
Since December 31, there's been an additional 45 deaths from COVID-19, according to Henry.
In her briefing today, she also said that there were 2,211 new cases over the past four days, bringing the provincial total to 54,201.
More than half of the new cases—1,301—were in the Fraser Health region. Another 389 were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 288 in the Interior Health region, 169 in the Northern Health region, and 64 in the Vancouver Island health region.
The number of fatalities has reached 946. Among the recent deaths were two First Nations elders.
Henry also said that there are now 52 active outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care and assisted-living facilities, and another eight in acute-care hospitals.
“We have had six new health-care facility outbreaks at Braddan Private Hospital, Kin Village, Madison Care Centre, Royal City Manor, Williams Lake Seniors Village and Creekside Landing," Henry said.
"The outbreaks at Chilliwack Lifestyles, Finnish Manor, Holyrood Manor, Northcrest Care Centre, St. Judes Anglican Home, The Gardens at Qualicum Beach, The Residence at Clayton Heights and Three Links Care Centre are now over."
In addition, the Portal homeless shelter in Chilliwack is experiencing an outbreak.
There are 6,823 active cases and 351 people in hospital with COVID-19.
Of those, 76 are in either critical care or an intensive-care unit. And 45,229 British Columbians have recovered from the virus.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix each urged British Columbians to continue maintaining their vigilance in holding the line against spreading COVID-19.
That can be accomplished with frequent hand-washing, wearing masks indoors, and not going to work or school if they're feeling any of the symptoms of COVID-19, including having a cough, a loss of their senses of smell or taste, a fever, the chills, or breathing difficulties.
"Our hope is that that levelling off that we saw before the holidays will continue," Henry said.
Dix urged B.C. residents to "dig in and remember the guidance of public health and follow it now".
"This is a critical time," the health minister declared.