Friday January 15, 2021 | PORT ALBERNI, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., editor | Island Social Trends
Fewer Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines than originally promised by the manufacturer is resulting in an unexpected slowdown in the vaccination program rollout in BC. This news came nationally today from the federal government after hearing from the manufacturer about a product slowdown in Belgium.
The Pfizer pharmaceutical manufacturing giant (funded by Germany for the COVID vaccination initiative) is pausing some production lines at its facility in Puurs, Belgium, in order to expand long-term manufacturing capacity.
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix today said “this affects the first quarter of that”, referring to the previously announced vaccination rollout program announced by Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry and the BC Centre for Disease Control. “There’s a real impact when you get less vaccine,” he Dix today.
“For BC this means some significant effect on this stage (of the vaccination program),” said Dix today in a media teleconference during the noon hour after he announced the construction go-ahead for a new Emergency Department at West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni.
So far 75,914 doses of COVID-19 vaccination product has been administered in BC, said Minister Dix today; that includes both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
The reduced Pfizer-BioNTech supply will mean “significant reductions in the first two weeks of February, from 51 trays to half that in that period,” said Dix today during a media teleconference.
Supply expectations of the Modern vaccine product have not changed, said Dix.
Preparations are underway for “massive doses after March,” said Dix today. Next week he and Dr Henry will be announcing more details about the intended rollout (prioritization, quantities and locations) — yesterday Dr Henry asked British Columbians to “be patient”.
But given today’s sudden news about temporarily reduced Pfizer-BioNTech supply, the massive COVID immunization plan is likely — like most if not all things during the COVID health emergency — going to be changing, adapting and pivoting frequently.
Due to extreme low-temperature requirements, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is more reliably used more centrally (close to freezer capacity) and so is primarily being used for long-term care residents and workers and for frontline acute care workers. The Modern vaccine — with less strident temperature requirements during shipping and storage — can be (and is being) shipped to rural and remote locations including Indigenous.
“We will gear up and get ready. That’s all we can do as a province,” said Minister Dix today, in going with the flow. “It’s our hope this is a small blip,” he added.
“In the first priority groups people won’t get first and second doses as soon as we would like,” he said but it appears in all respects that every best effort is being expended.
Keep up public health practices during second wave:
Case counts of COVID-19 in BC are still around 500 daily in BC, as Minister Dix reminded people today. And there are new COVID virus variants to be concerned about now too (including the UK and South African variants which have both been found in test-positive cases in BC).
The total new case tally this week so far (Monday to Thursday January 11 to 14) is 1,931. That’s 3.2 per cent of the total 59,608 cases pandemic-to-date, in just four days.
People in BC (residents and anyone who arrives from any other jurisdiction) need to maintain strict adherence to public health protocols for their own protection against COVID-19 transmission and infection, including physical distancing, frequent hand washing, wearing a mask in any public indoor space, staying home as much as possible, sticking to their own household bubble on a social level (utilizing remote technologies otherwise), and staying home if ill.