B.C. is gearing up to begin mass immunizations against COVID-19 in April, with the goal of administering a half-million shots every week by the summer and achieving herd immunity in the province by September.
After exhausting the initial supply of vaccines delivered by the federal government late last year, most of which went to long-term care home residents and workers, provincial officials said a fresh stock of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is expected later this week. Most coronavirus fatalities have been in care homes.
“The next phase of our efforts will see a significant and really massive scaling up of our vaccination efforts,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said on Wednesday. “It will be the largest vaccination effort in B.C. history, and requires a strong team.”
The Immunize B.C. team will be led by Vancouver Coastal Health chairwoman Dr. Penny Ballem, who called the province’s plan “one of the most important initiatives we’ve ever been tasked with in our health sector in B.C.”
Ballem will be charged with co-ordinating across various provincial sectors, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, “whether it’s business or government or municipalities to help support us being able to equitably and rapidly provide this protection to as many of our community members as possible.”
The aim remains to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19 by September.
“It’s a mammoth task,” Ballem said, adding it can be done.
About 25,000 residents were vaccinated weekly through December and January, Health Minister Adrian Dix said. This number is expected to nearly triple by February, when the province aims to deliver 68,400 doses a week.
By the end of March, B.C. expects to receive 792,000 vaccinations in total.
B.C.’s most vulnerable communities will continue to be the focus of provincial health teams until large-scale vaccinations begin in April, when the province anticipates receiving another 2.6 million doses — B.C.’s share of the 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine ordered by the federal government this week.
By July, Dix said, B.C. intends to deliver 461,438 doses, or nearly half-a-million immunizations, a week — a number that doesn’t include potential additional vaccines expected to hit the market shortly.
Dix also addressed reports Wednesday of Vancouver doctors jumping the queue to get a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The issue was detected through a systems review, Dix said, adding that that everyone is expected to follow the rules on the priority list for immunization in order to first protect the most vulnerable people.
The health minister said a number of cases have been identified by Vancouver Coastal Health and “appropriate action” will be taken as part of a review that is underway.
with files from the Canadian Press