While it’s unclear when a COVID-19 vaccine may be approved for use in Canada, Interior Health (IH) is preparing ahead of time to roll out a vaccination program.
The planning includes discussion about which groups to prioritize when immunization is able to start.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Albert de Villiers expects IH will initially have a limited supply.
“The manufacturers can only provide so much. We will get a certain percentage of the provincial vaccine dedicated to us and then we will have to decide provincially and locally, who are the priority people to actually get the vaccine,” de Villiers said.
IH’s top doctor said the health region is currently looking at prioritizing people living in long-term care homes, the elderly, and staff in long-term care facilities and ICUs.
De Villiers said staff at long-term care facilities are being considered for priority vaccinations because “(where) we have seen most of our issues in long-term care has been with staff members getting into the community and then bringing it into long-term care.”
The health authority is also prepping for the possibility that it may need to distribute a vaccine with specialized storage requirements.
One of the vaccines that’s currently in clinical trials needs to be kept at extremely cold temperatures around – 70 Celsius.
De Villiers said the health authority already has the capacity to store vaccines at those extremely low temperatures in some places and is working to get the necessary infrastructure ready for a broader immunization roll-out.
“We need to make sure we’ve got the correct fridges in place, and the correct distribution centers in place, so that we can actually take it all over the region and to anybody that needs it,” de Villiers said.
De Villiers said broader national and provincial planning is also occurring to determine how vaccines should be distributed.
He said discussions are taking place on whether areas should be allocated vaccine based on population size or based-on the severity of COVID-19 in their region.
— With files from the Associated Press, Katie Dangerfield