Tuesday December 15, 2020 | VANCOUVER, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends
It’s a big deal that the initial administration of brand new COVID-19 vaccines to health care workers in the BC lower mainland area took place today. December 15, 2020 will be remembered as a special day in this province — a day that leads to hope that this pandemic will at some point end.
One of the first people in BC to receive the vaccine was a 64-year-old residential care aid in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (Nisha Yunus) who has worked in the same unit on the same floor for 41 years. The first person in the Fraser Health region to be vaccinated was a health-care assistant (Linda Latour).
The idea of vaccinating health-care workers is so that the people they care for will be a little safer, it was stated by BC Health.
Doses of vaccines to combat COVID-19 arrived in BC late Sunday night December 13, confirmed on Monday byProvincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry. “This is momentous news” as it is “taking pressure off the health care system”, she said in her media session yesterday.
Meanwhile, COVID test-positive case numbers keep rising, deaths are constant, and community transmission of the virus is clearly active.
Premier Horgan is optimistic:
Today Premier John Horgan said he was optimistic about BC’s course through the pandemic, as the first COVID-19 vaccine shipments arrived in the province. “Please, British Columbians, I want you to have a great holiday season but I also want you to be safe,” he said.
“Keep in mind that this is a scarce resource in present times,” the premier said about the vaccines. He urges British Columbians to maintain small social circles (bubbles), continue physical distancing, and to wear masks when in indoor public spaces. All of that is actually by order of the Provincial Health Officer.
New phase of protection, starting with Pfizer:
“We’re starting a new phase to protect people,” said Dr Henry, as she further announced that more doses of the new Pfizer mRNA vaccine will be available for all health authorities next week — the week starting December 21 (that includes Island Health, the Interior, and the North). Timelines will depend on vaccine approval and availability. “As vaccines become more available, they will be provided to other priority groups throughout BC.”
The 3,900 doses (975 per tray, times four trays) of Pfizer vaccine vials were available to be diluted (about five injections from each vial) at two injection sites in the BC lower mainland on today — one in Vancouver Coastal Health and the other in Fraser Health. About 100 doses were administered today; detailed tracking includes vaccine type and lot number — that’s for overall immunization program data but also so each person will be receiving their booster of the same type of vaccine.
The designated vaccination locations are centralized — where the vaccine recipients can travel to the vaccine in one stationary place (as the Pfizer mRNA-type vaccine requires ultra-low temperature storage in specialized freezers, right up until dilution and administration). And Dr Henry was there to witness the first injection.
This is a historical moment, a key turning point of this long pandemic which is now officially 10 months old — officially declared March 17, 2020 in BC (although word of a strange new virus was first reported even at the end of November 2019, and BC Health was already giving press conferences in January of this year).
“This is a hopeful day for all of us in BC,” said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix. Among the very first people to receive the vaccine are those who care for and support BC’s seniors. “By getting immunized they are helping to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19 and helping us all get one step closer to ending this pandemic,” said Dix in a statement today.
Starts with frontline health care:
Front line health care workers have been given the option to be first in line for the first injections. Then a second injection is required. The booster shot is required about 21 days after the first, for greatest efficacy of the vaccine, according to data provided by Pfizer, the manufacturer.
Dr Henry says the vaccines are best utilized for workers on the health care frontline. That’s not only for protection of the health care professionals but also the patients they come into contact with. But she said today that the vaccine is not mandatory and that no one would be negatively impacted in terms of employment for not taking the vaccine.
All of the 3,900 doses that are ready for Tuesday will be used, as Dr Henry is reluctant to “leave them in the fridge” given the dire need for protection of the population, particularly health care workers. The batch for booster shots will arrive in about three weeks, Dr Henry explained yesterday.
She and Health Minister Adrian Dix of course encouraged people to continuing adhering to public health precautions, protocols and orders around COVID-19. While vaccines are here, there isn’t enough for everyone yet and transmission of the virus continues otherwise unchecked.
The only thing stopping transmission are the decisions each of us makes every day to physically distance, wear a mask, wash our hands frequently, and socialize only with our household bubble at this time.
“No event or gathering is completely safe. The virus continues to circulate in this community,” said Dr Henry yesterday in her introductory comments in her joint media session with Minister Dix. | BC guidelines & orders about gatherings
“Someone you spend time with may inadvertently bring the virus to your home or dinner table,” Dr Henry said as people around the province are in various phases of decision-making as to their Christmas celebration plans.
There will be a time when people can be together again, was the message today. “But we are not there yet. There are no safe gatherings right now,” said Dr Henry, as the virus plays hovoc in BC.
A registration and record system are in development, including a process to register for vaccine access and so people can receive a formal record of immunization.
All vaccines go through a rigorous regulatory scientific review process for safety, quality and efficacy at Health Canada before being made available to the public.
The immunization plan in BC is being led by Dr Ross Brown, Vancouver Coastal Health’s vice-president for pandemic response and director regional emergency operations centre; Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry; and the Ministry of Health.
BC COVID stats at December 15:
There were 522 new COVID-19 test-positive cases reported today (eight epi-linked) for the last 24 hours. That’s a lower daily total than in recent weeks, as people seem to be returning to following public health guidelines more diligently. Total cases in BC this year to date is now 43,463.
Presently there are 9,860 active cases of COVID-19 in BC. Of those, 361 people are in hospital (93 of whom are in intensive care or critical care). Another 10,768 people in BC are self-isolating due to exposure to a known case.
Sadly there were 21 deaths to report today, which is a very high rate for BC, now deep in the second wave of this pandemic.
“We are not through this storm yet,” said Dr Henry last week.
There is also a community cluster at Big White Ski Resort (which had been offering deep-discount pricing to attract business in this holiday season).
Vancouver Island COVID stats at December 15:
As of today December 15, Vancouver Island has tallied 794 cases of COVID-19 this year to date. Today there were seven new cases (down from 16 yesterday).
New cases on Vancouver Island over the previous three days were seen across all age groups from child to 89 years. Today’s numbers show all new cases in ages 20 to 59, plus three among people in their 70s. All of this is clear evidence of active community transmission.
Presently there are 82 active cases (37 in the south, 19 central, and 26 in the north). The total is down from 90 yesterday and clearly down from 161 last Thursday, which comparatively is good news. Islanders are taking Dr Henry’s guidance very much to heart.
As was the case yesterday, seven people are in hospital due to COVID, with five of those in ICU.
School exposures today are listed to a total of five (down from seven in recent days): Nanaimo (3), Salt Spring Island (1), Campbell River (1).
Today’s COVID-19 death count in Island Health remains at eight. That’s up from seven at December 9 and six on December 7; before that there had been no new deaths since September 28.
Footage of the first vaccine in B.C. being administered to Nisha Yunus in the Vancouver Coastal region: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/NycojssyPI (December 15, 2020)
Footage of the vaccine being administered to Linda Latour in the Fraser Health region: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/kejtcVs0Qb (December 15, 2020)
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/covidvaccine
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.