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Essential workers in British Columbia won’t receive AstraZeneca shots until late April

Shipments of the newly authorized AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Canada.

Essential workers that aren’t in B.C.’s health-care sector won’t get priority access to the AstraZeneca vaccine until at least the end of April.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the first 68,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine set to arrive will be targeted for clusters and community outbreaks. Some of the vaccine is already in British Columbia. A majority of the current shipment, 41,000 doses, is set to expire on April 3.

Read more: Why is B.C. on its 1st age group when Alberta is opening vaccination to anyone 65+?

“When people are working somewhere they are also living in their communities. We are empowering public health to focus on areas of highest transmission to reduce that with a limited amount of vaccine,” Dix said.

“When you are in a pandemic you have to arm public health with all the tools at their disposal and that is what we are doing.”

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Health authorities will determine how to use the AstraZeneca based on industries with high levels of COVID-19 spread.

This includes people who live and work in congregate circumstances. The province has not provided any specific locations publicly as to where the vaccine is being used, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has often mentioned processing plants.

Read more: COVID-19 outbreak declared at B.C. glass plant, employees given vaccine priority

Other jurisdictions, including Ontario, are using the vaccine to immunize citizens between 60 and 64 years of age.

British Columbia is using the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for its aged-based program. Those born in 1931 and earlier will start receiving their shots this upcoming week.

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Long-term care staff and health-care workers have already been offered the vaccine

The province is expected to announce more details this week on how essential workers will be prioritized. This could include teachers, police officers, transit drivers, fire fighters, child care workers and many more.

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This group will have access to the 132,000 doses of AstraZeneca scheduled to arrive at the end of April.

“The issue will be where is risk of transmission the most, that is how the decision will be made,” Dix said.

“We are proceeding and using the AstraZeneca now, and some Pfizer and Moderna, to address transmission in community.”

Ralph Kaisers, the head of the Vancouver Police Union, believes police officers should already be receiving the vaccine. The union is now pushing for the province to ensure they are high on the priority list for the next round of shots.

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“I would like to see like to see first responders, police officers, at the front of that line because we don’t get to work in a clinical environment,” Kaisers said.

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Fraser Health has been vaccinating outbreaks over the last week with the Pfizer vaccine. This includes the Costco in Port Coquitlam and Vitrum Glass in Langley. So far 44 people have tested positive at the outbreak at Vitrum.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation Teri Mooring said the province needs to be open around its vaccination priorities.

“We are fully expecting teachers to be prioritized. I think the sooner the better for the vaccination process especially in areas of the province that have been hard hit,” Mooring said.

“I think teachers should be receiving this with other essential workers as soon as possible.”

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