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BC immunization rollout still based on age but BC-wide moved up to summer

"Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this." ~ Premier John Horgan

Monday March 1, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [First posted 11:35 am | Updated 7:15 pm]

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends

On this first day of March we are that much closer to spring, and closer to the rollout of a significant volume of vaccine doses to British Columbians, continuing in the elder population and health care settings.

In a media teleconference this morning, the four-phase BC Immunization Plan was reviewed in synthesis with an update as to supply (AstraZeneca product is now part of the mix as a third product, having just been approved last Friday by Health Canada).

Speaking at the 10:30 am teleconference out of Victoria were Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry and Immunization Plan executive lead Dr Penny Ballem.

BC immunization plan, March 1 2021
The BC COVID-19 Immunization Plan is organized in four phases with the main goal to reduce deaths and also serious infection leading to hospitalization. [Mach 1, 2021 – BC CDC]

Today’s information session with media ahead of the public teleconference emphasized how pleased the government is about having protected front line health care workers and also the residents and workers in long-term care during Phases 1 & 2.

Much of the tremendous success in seeing infection and death rates plummet in these groups is directly related to the efficacy of the m-RNA-type vaccines themselves — both Pfizer and Moderna products delivered an efficacy rate of over 90%.

Roll-out by age, descending:

Starting with people in the general population who are over age 80 years, people can start phoning in to book their appointment starting March 8. Appointments will be held starting March 15.

Dr Penny Ballem, March 1 2021
BC Immunization Plan executive lead Dr Penny Ballem, addressed the media March 1, 2021 in Victoria.

For indigenous communities the general population starting age for this phase of immunization is 65 years.

Tracking the doses:

As people get vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccine products, the BC health system will keep close track of who has been vaccinated, where, and with what type of vaccine. Intervals for receiving the m-RNA type of vaccine (Pfizer and Moderna) and the viral vector type (AstraZeneca) will be tracked and managed using now a 16-week interval which is considered safe based on data out of UK and Israel, said Dr Henry today.

This means that the BC-wide coverage of first-dose of two-dose COVID-19 vaccines can be achieved by the end of July, instead of by the end of September. This was news delivered with some excitement today by Dr Henry. It certainly is a positive development in the overall pandemic response, to have the immunization done sooner (at least to some degree of protection with a first dose).

Premier says keep eye on the goal:

Premier John Horgan said today that “although there is light at the end of the tunnel, we are far from out of this”, as a note of caution and calling for resolve in the population to keep on with personal decisions about using public health protocol protections (limiting social contacts, maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks, staying home if feeling unwell, etc.)

Premier John Horgan, March 1 2021
Premier John Horgan addressed media on March 1, 2021 about the BC Immunization Plan update: “An opportunity to do the best we can do” is his message to all British Columbians.

Horgan is pleased that over 275,000 people have been vaccinated in BC so far (275,681 as of today). That includes about 90% of residents and workers in long-term care, he said.

BC is ready to deliver vaccination doses into the arms of British Columbians, but Horgan reminds everyone that BC relies on the vaccine supply that is achieved through federal procurement and that is purchased entirely from offshore producers (there is no domestic production of COVID vaccines in Canada).

COVID-19 case data:

As of Friday February 26 there were 79,194 cases of COVID-19 in BC since the start of the pandemic, of which 4,665 are still active. In total 4,331 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19. To date, 1,335 people have died due to COVID-19 infection. The positivity rate is high in BC at 6.6.

As of today March 1 (after 3 pm), there were 80,672 total cases pandemic-to-date, of which 4,464 are active (up from Friday). Now 4,420 people have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. To date, 1,363 people have died due to COVID-19 infection; that’s up by 28 over this past weekend. The positivity rate is at 6.4 which is still high.

BC CDC, COVID data, March 1, 2021
COVID-19 cases & vaccine dashboard at March 1, 2021 [BC CDC]

In Island Health (on Vancouver Island) at March 1 there have been 2,403 cases of COVID-19 pandemic-to-date, of which 324 are still active (up from 292 before the weekend). In total, 135 people have been hospitalized. There have been 26 deaths (one more over the past weekend). The positivity rate continues to be high at 3.7% (but is down from Friday’s 4.0%).

BC CDC, March 1 2021, Vancouver Island, COVID
COVID-19 case dashboard for Island Health at March 1, 2021 [BC CDC]
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