Health officials say two entire northern B.C. communities will be immunized as part of a new approach to vaccinations aimed to combat recent high transmission rates of COVID-19 in the region.
Vaccination clinics for adults in Prince Rupert, with a population of around 12,000, and nearby Port Edward will open on Monday and continue until April 1.
Those eligible can dial a dedicated phone line and appointments will be assigned based on age, with vaccinations for the city’s oldest residents starting March 15 and clinics for those aged 18 to 39 beginning March 29.
A statement from Northern Health says the community approach is needed because Prince Rupert has high COVID-19 case and positivity rates that have not reflected recent improvements seen elsewhere in the region.
Northern Health is also using the community immunization model on Haida Gwaii, while Island Health says all residents of nearly 30 communities with populations under 4,000 or with accessibility challenges such as the Gulf Islands, will also be vaccinated together in one or two-day clinics.
Island Health said details of those community clinics are still being arranged.
Northern Health chief medical health officer Dr. Jong Kim said offering group immunizations in areas hit hard by the virus is a responsible approach.
“Quickly vaccinating the entire community is a great way to protect everyone in Prince Rupert, and keep them safe,” Kim said in the statement.
Last week, the province said it would use recently-acquired doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to target COVID-19 outbreaks and clusters.
The vaccine is seen as easier to move than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna products and will be part of a separate stream of immunizations than the age-based mass vaccination rollout.
The AstraZeneca doses were not expected to be in Canada until April or May, with provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry describing the early arrival as an “added bonus.”
–With files from Richard Zussman and The Canadian Press