Residents of Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and Fraser Health (FH) between the ages of 55 and 65 will be able to register for drop-in AstraZeneca vaccination starting this week.
The Ministry of Health says that the program is thanks to a partnership between Immunize BC and community pharmacies in the Lower Mainland. Starting Wednesday, March 31, people between 55 and 65 years old will be able to call their local pharmacy and book an appointment to receive either an AstraZeneca or COVISHIELD vaccination.
Anyone receiving the vaccination will need to bring their personal health number, which is found on their BC Services Card or CareCard. Drop-in service may also be an option at more than 150 participating pharmacies, according to a statement from the provincial government.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says that the AstraZeneca and COVISHIELD vaccines will be an “important tool” in getting BC past its current surge of COVID-19 cases.
“We know from the millions of doses used worldwide, and especially in the UK, it is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19,” Henry says in a written statement.
“I encourage everyone in the Lower Mainland who is between 55 and 65 years of age to receive their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine today.”
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Tuesday’s announcement, however, comes shortly after the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was suspended in Canada for those under 55.
The recommendation was made by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) following rare cases of blood clots following the use of the vaccine.
This adverse event, called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT), has occurred primarily in women under 55, the vice-chair of NACI, Dr. Shelley Deeks, said.
The condition tends to occur between four and 16 days after vaccination.
“Over this past week, a signal was detected in Europe in younger people using the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said Henry during a press conference. “We are taking immediate action when we see a signal to protect health and ensure that we understand this and use this information to appropriately use the vaccines that we have.”
Health officials are anticipating further information in the coming days.