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750K more COVID-19 vaccinations needed for B.C. to start reopening: expert

Click to play video: 'Will enough eligible B.C. adults take advantage of COVID-19 shot?' Will enough eligible B.C. adults take advantage of COVID-19 shot?
Will enough eligible B.C. adults take advantage of COVID-19 shot? Starting Sunday evening, every eligible adult in the province will be able to book for their COVID-19 vaccination but it's unclear if enough young people will be taking advantage of the opportunity to get the jab. Grace Ke reports – May 16, 2021

British Columbia needs to immunize nearly 750,000 more people before it can start to relax COVID-19 restrictions, according to a biologist who has been advising the province on the pandemic.

Sally Otto, an evolutionary biologist and mathematical modeler who is a part of the B.C. COVID modelling group, said if vaccinations continue at their current pace, that goal could be reached by the end of May.

Read more: COVID-19: Vaccine bookings open to all B.C. adults Sunday; Surrey adds walk-in clinics

Otto said about 60 per cent of B.C.’s population, or about 3 million people, need their first jab for phased reopening to get underway.

“This week sometime we’ll overtake the United States and have more than 50 per cent of our population vaccinated, which is fantastic,” Otto told Global News.

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As of Friday, about 47 per cent of Americans had received at least one dose of vaccine.

In B.C., about 2.26 million people, or 44 per cent of the province’s total population, have had their first shot.

But Otto said the experience in other jurisdictions shows that as the number of people who have been vaccinated climbs, finding and vaccinating additional people becomes more challenging.

There are about 260,000 people who have registered for their shot and haven’t received one yet, she said.

Click to play video: 'Perspective on COVID-19 ‘breakthrough cases’' Perspective on COVID-19 ‘breakthrough cases’
Perspective on COVID-19 ‘breakthrough cases’ – May 13, 2021

But with the province doling out about 50,000 vaccines a day, it is running out of runway.

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“That’s not much of a buffer. They’ll run through that buffer of people willing to get vaccinated this week, unless we get more people to register,” she said.

Read more: B.C.’s COVID-19 ‘Restart 2.0’ plan won’t come until after May long weekend

At 7 p.m. Sunday, all British Columbians aged 18 and up will become eligible to book their shot.

The effort could also be boosted in coming weeks as the province unveils its plan to vaccinate youth aged 12 to 17 years old.

Otto estimated that B.C. could hope to top out at about 86 per cent of people getting immunized — with about 14 per cent of people vaccine-hesitant, and about 10 per cent unable to get the vaccine because they’re children or have a medical reason.

The province could potentially hit that target by mid-June, she said, with everyone getting a second dose by some time in mid-August.

B.C. won’t likely see a more serious relaxation of pandemic restrictions until that point, she said.

Anyone who wants to get their COVID-19 vaccine first needs to register with the province.

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