Why BC is vaccinating healthcare workers before long-term care residents

Dec 14 2020, 4:57 pm

BC has prioritized healthcare workers and long-term care residents as two groups who are first in line to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Healthcare workers in BC will get the very first doses of Pfizer’s vaccine that arrive in the province this week, while Quebec chose to give its first shots to elderly care home residents.

Long-term care residents are the most at risk of severe complications and death from COVID-19, but the answer as to why they’re getting vaccinated second in BC is a logistical one, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday.

Pfizer is closely watching how its vaccine is distributed early on, Henry said, and the company mandates that it be injected very close to the ultra-low temperature freezers where it’s stored.

She characterized the vaccine as “delicate” because it needs to be stored at -70°C and delivered soon after thawing.

BC chose to deliver the first doses to healthcare workers who can get themselves to the deep freeze sites.

But in Quebec, its two sites with pre-positioned freezers are in large hospitals that are attached to long-term care homes, Henry said. That enabled them to give the vaccine to care home residents quickly enough.

But in BC, the freezers aren’t close enough to long-term care homes.

Henry said care home residents will get vaccinated as soon as Moderna’s vaccine candidate is approved or as soon as Pfizer relaxes its storage and transport rules.

She has her eye on Moderna’s vaccine candidate because it can be stored in regular freezers, making it easier to transport.