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Anxiety builds as details of B.C.’s mass vaccination plan for people over 80 delayed

Click to play video 'Where is B.C’s mass-vaccination plan?' Where is B.C’s mass-vaccination plan?
Less than two weeks before the provincial mass-vaccination program is supposed to start, the details of that plan remain a mystery. Richard Zussman reports – Feb 18, 2021

The B.C. government is waiting to receive more vaccines from the federal government before unveiling a COVID-19 immunization distribution plan for those 80 years of age and older.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry originally expected to unveil the details of plan this week but it has now been pushed to next week.

This delay could impact the distribution of the vaccine, set to start the first week of March.

Premier John Horgan said his government will provide the information when it is available and does not want to announce a registration plan without having the vaccines in the province.

Click to play video 'B.C. vaccination plan unveiled by health officials' B.C. vaccination plan unveiled by health officials
B.C. vaccination plan unveiled by health officials – Jan 22, 2021

“I understand and appreciate anxiety and frustration. But it’s not from lack of giving information, it’s about a lack of information. If we had it, we would tell you. We are reaching out to our health authorities, to communities, across B.C., to put in place the infrastructure to meet the expectations of the public,” Horgan said in a news conference on Thursday.

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“I’m confident, should supply arrive, that we’ll be able to meet those expectations.”

British Columbia was the first province in Canada to release a mass vaccination plan.

The focus currently is on providing first and second doses for those working and living in long-term care and assisted living, as well as those living in rural and remote First Nations.

Click to play video 'Focus BC: How successful will the COVID-19 vaccine plan be?' Focus BC: How successful will the COVID-19 vaccine plan be?
Focus BC: How successful will the COVID-19 vaccine plan be? – Jan 22, 2021

The next step will be notifying those 80 years of age and older that they are eligible and making appointments for them.

There are 49,726 British Columbians 90 years of age and older and 187,443 British Columbians 80 years old to 89 years old. The province is attempting to get this group immunized by the end of March.

The possible delays to the plan have been because of a drop-off in supply of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The federal government has been responsible for procuring the vaccine while the provinces are responsible for distributing it.

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“Me being concerned about that and complaining about Ottawa will not vaccinate one BCer,” Horgan said.

“We’ve got good people in place, we’re ready to go. We don’t have vaccines.”

Click to play video 'Will the province buy its own supply of domestic COVID-19 vaccine?' Will the province buy its own supply of domestic COVID-19 vaccine?
Will the province buy its own supply of domestic COVID-19 vaccine? – Feb 18, 2021

BC Liberal interim leader Shirley Bond said she has heard increasing anxiety from many constituents about notification for the vaccine.

She said the main questions surround how people will be notified when it is their turn, where will they get the shot, and how can they make an appointment.

“If you have an 80 year old in your family, you are sitting waiting because there is no plan laid out,” Bond said.

“We have been dealing with the pandemic for a year now and British Columbians expect answers to their questions.”

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Read more: B.C. prioritizing age and vulnerable people over non-medical essential workers in mass COVID-19 immunization plan

Once the 80-plus group has been vaccinated, the province will shift to the 70- to 79-year-old group and work its way from eldest to youngest.

The province will be using community centres, arenas and other available spaces. Officials are also having discussions with pharmacists over the role they will play in the plan.

“B.C.’s pharmacists support the government’s plans for large-scale immunization clinics,” BC Pharmacy Association CEO Geraldine Vance said.

“However, they also believe community pharmacies should be utilized to extend the number of immunizations that can be delivered in the shortest amount of time possible.”