The BC government has laid out its plan for COVID-19 vaccines across the province in every age group, calling it the “largest and most complex” immunization program in the province’s history.
During a press conference on Friday morning, BC Premier John Horgan, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading immunization efforts for the province, announced details of the next phases in BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan.
͞The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in extremely difficult ways,” said Horgan. “Together, we have faced this pandemic with strength, courage and compassion, and we are starting to feel optimistic that one day COVID-19 will be in our rear-view.”
The plan will see approximately 7.4 million doses of vaccine administered to every British Columbian who is eligible to receive it between April and the end of September.
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The province said its four-phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan got underway this past December, by first immunizing those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and death, including long-term care residents and the healthcare workers who care for them, remote and at-risk Indigenous communities, and seniors.
Already, Phase 1 – which is slated to continue until next month – has seen over 103,000 people in BC receive their first dose of vaccine.
Phase 2, starting in late February, expands immunizations to additional vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and elders, healthcare staff, and all seniors over the age of 80.
Phase 3, starting in April, will expand to include people between the ages of 79 to 75, and will work backwards in five-year increments to include those age 60 and over. During this phase, people with certain underlying health conditions will also be included. As additional vaccines become available, people who are frontline essential workers or work in specific workplaces or industries may also be able to start receiving vaccines later in this phase.
Phase 4 is anticipated to begin in July 2021 for the rest of the eligible population, starting with people aged 59 to 55 and working backwards in five-year age increments until everyone over the age of 18 who wants a COVID-19 vaccine receives it.
Asked about the fact the vaccination rollout plan doesn’t those younger than 18 years old, Henry said “the evidence still supports that young people are much less likely to get infected, and less likely to have severe illness.”
As well, said Henry the vaccines that are currently available have not been studied or approved for use in children.
And while some vaccine trials are being done on children as young as 12, “our focus remains on those who are most likely to have severe illness.”
The province said that starting in March, pre-registration for the vaccine will begin to open online and by phone for the general public, starting with those aged 79 to 75. People who are pre-registered will get a reminder to book their appointment as soon as they are eligible.
With the layout of the phases, the province also noted that no one will lose their place in line. For example, if an elderly relative is in Phase 2 and cannot be immunized at that time, they can be immunized at any point thereafter.
In total, approximately four million British Columbians are eligible to receive the COVID-19 immunization, and clinics will be set up in 172 communities across the province. There will also be mobile sites and home visits when necessary to support those who are unable to go to clinics.