Thousands of front-line health-care workers in long-term care, intensive care, emergency rooms and COVID-19 hospitals will be the first to get the vaccine against the virus in B.C.
Health officials announced the province’s rollout plans on Wednesday, following the federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine that morning.
Residents of long-term care will be next in line, but for now, the province can only dispense the vaccine at the point of delivery.
This means workers will need to go to a set location: One will be in Vancouver Coastal Health and another in Fraser Health. Both will receive a combined nearly 4,000 doses next week.
Long-term care residents will be immunized either later this month or in January, once the vaccine, which must be stored at minus 70 degrees, can be safely moved.
“Our intense focus will be immunizing those around long-term care and immunizing those in long-term care,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.
“COVID-19 has caused a lot of disruptions in our lives and a vaccine is the best way out of it.”
Next to get the vaccine will be seniors over the age of 80, people at high risk such as those who are homeless and those who live in remote and isolated Indigenous communities.
The goal is to immunize all of these groups in the first three months of 2021, with access to doses that are more transportable in April.
The next group will be other frontline workers such as paramedics, firefighters, police officers, grocery store workers and teachers.
Homeless people will receive the vaccine before teachers and other workers because they are at higher risk, Henry said.
“I expect everyone will be saying, ‘Where am I?’ (on the list) and that’s an issue. The reality is we have limited doses of the vaccine. The other reality is we are not seeing firefighters being exposed, we are not seeing teachers exposed,” she said.
“We are focusing on saving lives and those are the people most likely to get ill and end up in hospital.”
At the same time, the province will start to deliver the vaccine by age, starting with people age 75 and above, then age 70 and above, and so on.
Those who are immunocompromised, such as patients with cancer, as well as people who are pregnant and children are not recommended to take the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines.
Earlier on Wednesday, the federal government announced that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is officially approved for use in Canada, with limited rollout set to begin to priority groups “within days.”
Vaccination of the general population is anticipated to start in April.
“It’s an exceptional day for Canada,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor with Health Canada’s regulatory branch, told reporters.
“In a year where we haven’t had a lot of good news, this is a bit of good news. And I think we should take a moment to acknowledge that — and then we’re all going to get back to work.”
– with files from Amanda Connolly
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