B.C. to accelerate vaccine booster plan in January as Omicron variant spreads

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COVID-19: B.C. to accelerate booster program, expand vaccine clinic capacity
As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread, B.C. is expanding its vaccine clinic capacity and booster program. Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, said the province hopes to complete its booster program by the end of March -- two months ahead of the schedule first announced in October – Dec 21, 2021

The provincial government has committed to increasing its COVID-19 vaccination capacity and accelerating its booster shot campaign next year.

B.C. aims to complete its booster program by March 31, with a targeted 62-per-cent increase in clinic capacity across all health authorities in January.

The wait time for a booster, officials hope, will average between one and three weeks, according to public health documents.

“We won’t be offering them to everyone all at once, we’re going to go age category by age category, based on risk, based on the medical evidence that supports this program,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday.

The rollout plan was announced Tuesday as public health officials ordered new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the new, highly-contagious Omicron variant.

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The province has observed a spike in COVID-19 cases in the 18- to 35-year-old demographic in recent weeks.

The Vancouver Convention Centre has once again been secured to start delivering boosters in two weeks, which could get 130,000 doses into arms in January alone.

The Fraser Health Authority will launch a new clinic at the Guildford site in Surrey, with more sites anticipated. All other health authorities are also in the process of confirming new clinic spaces.

Click to play video: 'B.C. getting tough in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers'
B.C. getting tough in response to rising COVID-19 case numbers

The provincial modelling documents, released Tuesday, estimate these measures could increase B.C.’s vaccination capacity to roughly 325,000 doses delivered by the end of January — up from 250,000 under the booster regime that was first announced in October.

The new booster plan would be completed two months earlier than first anticipated.

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The immunization rollout prioritize those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, seniors, long-term care residents, Indigenous peoples, health-care workers, and those who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The province will also expand its rapid-testing initiative with an expected available inventory of up to 11 million tests. Some seven million of those will be reserved for public health and health authorities working to manage community transmission of COVID-19. The rest will go to schools, universities, and other groups in need.

New public health restrictions, effective Wednesday, include the closure of bars, nightclubs and fitness facilities, and a maximum of six people per table at restaurants.

Organized indoor gatherings are not allowed, and seated events must reduce their capacity by 50 per cent, regardless of venue size.

The restrictions remain in place until at least Jan. 18.

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