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Some British Columbians over the age of 80 will receive COVID-19 vaccine at home

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The provincial government is planning on vaccinating some British Columbians 80 years of age and older at home as part of next phase of COVID-19 immunizations.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says there are some people living at home who will not be able to get to an immunization clinic and the vaccine will be delivered to them.

Starting as early as the end of this week, the province will start contacting people in the 80-plus demographic to book immunization appointments.

The shots are scheduled to start the first week of March and everyone who is eligible will be directly contacted by the province with information around community clinics.

“There is a group that will not be able to do that and that presents a challenge for us, especially with the Pfizer vaccine,” Dix said.

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“Those that are unable to go from their own homes are often the most vulnerable and we are going to obviously focus on that group of people.”

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As of last week, 162,982 people in the province had been vaccinated. It is unclear how many of them are 80 years of age or older.

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There are between 30,000 to 40,000 people living in long-term care or assisted living facilities, a vast majority of whom are in the age demographic.

The province will work with individuals around whether they should be receiving the vaccine at home or go to a community clinic.

In total, there are more than 200,000 British Columbians in the 80-plus group. Based on numbers provided by the Seniors Advocate, about 65,000 of them receive home and community care. This means they have received medical care from the province at home, including a flu vaccine.

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But the COVID-19 vaccine is different because the Pfizer shot can be more volatile. Some in this group will be asked to count on friends and family to get them to one of the clinics that will be established for the vaccine.

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“We are going to have to incorporate in the plan a way to get the vaccine to people in their homes. There are going to be people who can get to the site but can’t get there themselves,” Mackenzie said.

“I think there will be encouragement to those who can go to a vaccination centre to go, so we can focus on those who can’t go”.

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The vaccination plan is being run by Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem. The province had originally targeted this week to release details, but that may now be delayed until next week.

The province is still grappling with how to ensure there is minimal waste of the vaccine while delivering it at people’s homes. The vaccine has a limited shelf life and must be stored at freezing temperatures.

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Until now, the province has distributed the vaccine either at central clinics or within living facilities.

“This is why it is taking some time to sort it out, to get it right. There is enormous interest, as you would imagine, especially from those over 80 themselves but also their families and loved ones,” Dix said.