The B.C. government will not be giving special priority to the COVID-19 vaccine to a wide range of non-medical essential workers including police officers, teachers, truck drivers and grocery store clerks.
Instead, the province is focusing the mass immunization plan on age. The only exception will be those with clinically extremely vulnerable individuals.
“Earlier on when we did some assessments of these issues we had identified a number of essential workers but in reviewing the vaccines we have available and our goals in reducing sickness and death as well as the amount of vaccine and coming when we have considered the ethics and the focus will be entirely based on age as the largest risk factor. Age is the most important risk factor,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Friday.
“It is also the most feasible to implement. Age is something we can find on people. We have that information.”
The largest immunization in the province’s history includes 4.3 million eligible people and is expected to immunize everyone who is eligible before the end of September.
The province continues to vaccinate frontline health-care workers and long-term care staff and residents as part of the current vaccination rollout.
The plan is based on the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine and does not account for vaccines that have not yet been approved in Canada. The vaccine is not yet available for those 18 years old and younger because the available vaccines have not been tested on children.
The province could adjust the plan if the Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca vaccine are approved for use. When these vaccines are available, the province will review the data and could then put out a plan to vaccine teens and children if the science supports it.
These vaccines could also be used to prioritize essential workers if they are approved. The province will update the plan if these new vaccines are approved for use in B.C.
The one exemption around the age policy is for younger individuals with identified high-risk clinical factors for adverse outcomes from COVID-19 infection. This includes organ transplant recipients, people with specific cancers, people with COPD, people with rare diseases and other specific conditions.
Further details will be provided over the next two months and account for about 180,000 people.
The goal is to provide 7.4 million doses from April to September. This is about 40,437 vaccines a day across the province over the six-month period.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday an unexpected announcement by drug-maker Pfizer is a “significant blow” to B.C.’s vaccine timeline, but one the government will deal with.
Due to delays in delivering the Pfizer vaccine, there will still be people in the current priority groups who will receive a second dose in April. The province is currently immunizing those in long-term care, frontline health workers, Indigenous communities, vulnerable populations and those over the age of 80. Everyone in those groups is expected to receive at least a first dose before the end of March.
Pfizer told the Canadian government that Canada will not receive any of its vaccine doses next week due to delivery delays that have hit countries around the world.
Deliveries will start to pick up in the first weeks of February.
75 to 79 years old – Some before April 1, most after for dose 1, May dose 2
70 to 74 years old – April dose 1, May dose 2
65 to 69 years old May/June dose 1, June/July dose 2
60 to 64 years old (partial) June dose 1, July dose 2
60 to 64 (partial) July dose 1, August dose 2
55 to 59 July dose 1, August dose 2
50 to 54 July dose 1, August dose 2
45 to 49 July dose 1, August dose 2
40 to 44 July dose 1, August dose 2
35 to 39 July/August dose 1, August/September dose 2
30 to 34 August dose 1, September dose 2
25 to 29 August dose 1, September dose 2
18 to 24 August dose 1, September dose 2
The province is building flexibility in the plan if there are issues with distribution or access. The flexibility also accounts for the possibility of other vaccines becoming available.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our province, with steady guidance by Dr. Bonnie Henry, has made decisions based on science, data and evidence from health experts,” Dix said Friday.
“Our plan puts people at the forefront of every decision, and our immunization rollout will guide us through the spring and summer, ensuring that those who are most in need of the vaccine, will receive it as soon as possible.”
Starting in mid- to late February, health authorities will be reaching out to seniors 80 years and older and Indigenous seniors 65 plus and Indigenous Elders to provide information on how to pre-register for immunization appointments.
Also in late February, the province will launch a communication campaign that will inform residents of the key features of the next phase of the vaccination program. This will include specific details on how people can register.
Starting in mid-March and by five-year cohorts working backward from age 75 to 79, citizens will be able to pre-register for a vaccine two to four weeks before they are eligible for their appointment. This can be done online or over the phone.
The majority of British Columbians are not entirely supportive of the province’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, a new poll suggests.
Only 30 per cent of those polled by Insights West rated the execution of the plan to date as “good,” with most respondents (57 per cent) providing lower ratings.
“This is the first time that we’ve seen in the pandemic that the general public not support the government on COVID-19 related initiatives,” Insights West president Steve Mossop said Thursday.
-with files from Claire Fenton