On Monday morning, provincial health officials announced the details for Phase 2 of British Columbia’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, explaining how it will be rolled out to British Columbians over the coming weeks and months.
The announcement comes shortly after Health Canada approved two more vaccines, equalling a total of four that are authorized for use across the country.
Here’s everything you need to know:
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Who is getting vaccinated during Phase 2
More than 400,000 British Columbians are expected to be vaccinated over the month of March and early April. Immunization will be divided into two segments.
The first two weeks will be focused on remaining priority groups such as high-risk individuals, healthcare workers in hospitals and the community, high-risk seniors and staff in independent living homes and supportive housing, and clients and staff in long-term support homes.
The second half of March, as well as early April, will be devoted to vaccinating BC’s first age cohort of the general public. This includes members of the population that are above the age of 80 as well as Indigenous peoples that are over 65 years old.
There are also a number of communities across the province that will be fully vaccinated during Phase 2. These are mostly located in the north, interior, and parts of Vancouver Island. These communities had to meet specific criteria including low population numbers (mostly under 2,500), being in remote or hard-to-access areas, or having persistent COVID-19 clusters.
In order for the 80+ population of British Columbia to be vaccinated, the province will use a call-in system to schedule appointments.
Call-ins will begin on March 8, and vaccinations are scheduled to start on March 15. Each health authority across the province will have a unique call centre number and a number of available clinics where appointments can be made. People living in Fraser Health, however, will be able to book their appointments online.
In order to reduce the initial stress and volume on these call lines, the general population over 80 years old will be divided into subgroups. People will be asked to only call in once they become eligible, but anyone who missed their week can book an appointment at any time — they will not lose their spot.
Seniors will be able to have family, friends, or people who provide additional support call and book an appointment for them.
Required information includes the person’s first and last name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number, and contact information. Health officials stress that these booking centres will never ask for a person’s Social Insurance Number, Driver’s Licence Number, or any banking and credit card numbers.
Extending the window between first and second COVID-19 vaccine doses
Health officials also announced that they would be adjusting the window between when a first and second dose of two-dose vaccines are issued.
The interval has been extended to 16 weeks. Health officials say that protection given by a first dose lasts for at least four months and that the adjustment will allow British Columbians to move up the priority list and get vaccinated sooner.
They will, however, continue to monitor if there are any changes in protection level but say they’re very confident in the approach.
Stretching the interval between the first and second dose will free up approximately 70,000 doses that will be used to expand coverage across BC. Of that amount, 30,000 will be used for First Nations and Indigenous communities. The remaining 40,000 will be used on remaining priority populations and possibly moving forward early with age-based populations in April.
AstraZeneca in BC
As for the recently approved AstraZeneca vaccine, health officials say it’s unclear just how many doses will initially be distributed to BC. They are expecting to receive the first batch during the week of March 8 and are currently planning on where it will be targeted.
Health officials say that unlike the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, AstraZeneca is fridge-stable and can be used in communities in a much more flexible and agile way.
They will also be considering if they can use the doses to move first responders and essential workers further up BC’s vaccination queue.