Officials are reviewing how the COVID-19 vaccine has been administered after recent concerns of queue-jumping.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday that “appropriate action” will be taken following recent reports of queue-jumping at Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health.
The main concern is ensuring the clinics keep an accurate list of people who can have access to the vaccine, if those who have an appointment don’t show up. The added challenge is the location of vaccine clinics are being moved around and it’s hard to keep track of who nearby is on the priority list for vaccination.
“We want to make sure there are very clear instructions and guidance given by public health on immunization and the priority list and to make sure to follow the guidelines in order to protect our most vulnerable. And we are determined to see that will happen,” Dix said.
The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be administered within six hours of being thawed. If anyone misses their vaccination appointment, clinic staff can consult a list of eligible people close to the vaccination centres to take their place.
On Tuesday, Global News reported that four employees of Fraser Health, including two hospital directors, had received the vaccine ahead of front-line health workers on Dec. 27.
A vaccine clinic at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster found itself with 17 leftover doses after a day of immunizing front-line workers.
According to Fraser Health employees who spoke to Global News on condition of anonymity, the clinic’s executive director reached out to other directors in the health region and offered up the extra doses.
A director at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, who, according to colleagues, is not involved in day-to-day direct patient care, received one of those doses, as did their son and son-in-law, who work at the hospital as a porter and a screener, respectively.
“It is always making sure that we have that list of people. But at the end of the day, if people are not available in very small instances, we have others who are offered the vaccine, who are also health-care workers and working in that setting,” Henry said on Wednesday.
“So it’s not like we’re going off of script entirely. But that has happened in a small number of cases.”
Meanwhile, Vancouver Coastal Health is investigating allegations of doctors jumping the queue when it comes to receiving the second dose, Global News has also learned.
“The COVID-19 vaccines administered through our VCH Vaccination Program are being tracked in a single provincial database, which allows us to identify everyone who has received a first dose at any clinic,” reads an internal memo obtained by Global News.
“Through this system, it has come to our attention that there have been instances in which physicians have attended our clinics and received their second dose of vaccine before they were invited or permitted to do so. These instances will be investigated and may result in disciplinary action.”
When asked about the investigation, Dix said the province is “very disappointed”.
Dr. Penny Ballem, chair of the Vancouver Coastal Health board of directors and former Vancouver city manager, will oversee B.C.’s mass immunization rollout, set to begin in April. More details are expected next week.
–With files from Sarah MacDonald and Janet Brown