B.C.’s first batch of AstraZeneca headed for workers at food processing plants, industrial camps

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Vaccination clinics across the province are picking up pace today with thousands of British Columbians rolling up their sleeves. As Andrea Macpherson tells us, thousands of shots are being administered to eligible seniors starting Monday – Mar 15, 2021

British Columbia will be allocating its first batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine to those it deems highest risk for the spread of COVID-19, delaying when some essential workers can get the shot.

The province will deploy around 68,000 doses of the vaccine to areas that public health officials and WorkSafeBC have identified as the highest risk categories of worksites.

The vaccinations will take place at food processing plants, agricultural operations with congregate accommodations, large industrial camps with congregate accommodations, and other large congregate-living settings for workers.

“When B.C. initially launched its COVID-19 Immunization Plan, we were hopeful additional vaccines would be approved so we could allocate them to priority and front-line workers and industries ahead of Phase 3,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement on Monday.

“Now, the initial shipment of AZ/SII vaccine will be used to protect workers in industries where full use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging, outbreaks and clusters have occurred or are ongoing, and workers must live or work in congregate settings.”

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

A majority of the current shipment — 41,000 doses — is set to expire on April 3.

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The AstraZeneca vaccine has been linked to blood clots in some European countries. Germany, Italy and France have suspended its use.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vouched for its safety, meanwhile, saying AstraZeneca has guaranteed Canada all vaccines to be distributed here are safe.

British Columbia’s health officials are encouraging anyone who is offered the vaccine to use it.

Read more: Germany, France, Italy latest to suspend AstraZeneca shot over blood clot concerns

“Remember, the best vaccine for you is the one available now. The BC Immunization Committee is reviewing the latest data and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to determine additional workplaces that will be prioritized for immunization using the AZ/SII vaccine,” the joint statement reads.

“The updated plan for additional shipments of AZ/SII vaccine will be released in the coming days.”

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, firefighters, and child-care workers.

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

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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. People born in 1931 and earlier will start receiving their shots this week.

Long-term care staff and health workers have already been offered immunization.

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

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