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As vaccine supply ramps up, provinces and territories fine-tune rollout plans – CBC.ca

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Vaccine deliveries are ramping up and provinces and territories are starting to unveil more of their vaccine rollout plans.

Each province has a phased plan for vaccine deployment which indicates when the various priority groups can expect to receive the shots.

Here’s what we know so far about who’s getting the shots and when.

British Columbia

B.C. is still in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout, which covers residents and staff of long-term care facilities, health care workers who may provide care for COVID-19 patients and remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

The subsequent phase is expected to run through March and includes seniors 80 and over, Indigenous seniors 65 and over, hospital staff and medical specialists, vulnerable populations living and working in congregated settings and staff providing in-home support to seniors.

B.C. is planning to announce the details of Phase 2 of the immunization program on Monday.

Immunization clinics overseen by local health authorities are being organized in 172 communities in school gymnasiums, arenas, convention centres and community halls.

B.C. said it would start reaching out to those in line for vaccines in Phase 2 to tell them how to pre-register for immunization appointments.

A truck carrying COVID-19 vaccine crosses the Canada-U.S. border into B.C. on Monday, Dec. 12, 2020. (CBSA/Lestudio Neuf)

People will be notified by postcard, email, text or phone call, through specialty clinics, independent living homes, home care services and family physician offices.

Pre-registration for vaccinations opens in March. People can pre-register, online or by phone, two to four weeks before they are eligible. Eligibility is based on the current phase of the vaccination program and the recipient’s age.

Those contacted for vaccination appointments are pre-screened for eligibility before they choose a location, date and time to receive the shot.

Mass clinics for the general population are scheduled to start on April 6, beginning with the 75-79 age group.

The B.C. government website says it is developing a registration and record system and a process to register for vaccine access and receive a formal record of immunization.

For more information about B.C.’s vaccination plan, go here.

Alberta

As of Feb. 24, seniors 75 and over (born in 1946 or earlier) and seniors 65 and over living in First Nations and Métis communities were eligible for vaccination. The Alberta government estimates there are about 230,000 seniors in these two groups.

Starting the first week of March, select pharmacies in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer will be offering the vaccine. By the end of the week about 100 pharmacies will provide shots. A list of participating pharmacies can be found here.

Staff at participating pharmacies will contact people who are eligible for the shots.

Given the anticipated vaccine delivery schedule, Alberta Health Services says it expects it will be vaccinating people in this first phase over most of March.

Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold, Alberta gets the COVID-19 vaccine in Red Deer. (AHS)

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April. Vaccinations in this phase will be offered to anyone aged 50 to 74 years, anyone with underlying health conditions, First Nations and Métis people aged 35 and older, residents and staff in congregate living settings and eligible caregivers.

The Alberta government says that, as supply increases, it will accelerate vaccinations on the model of its annual flu campaign by using Alberta Health Services staff, community pharmacies and family physicians. The province was able to administer 1.3 million flu shots in six weeks last fall — an average of over 30,000 shots per day.

Starting February 24, Alberta started using an online booking tool www.ahs.ca/covidvaccine. Those eligible for vaccination also can call the province’s 811 Health Link number for information.

Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said appointments are now available seven days a week from 8:20 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. at 58 sites around the province, and the hours will be extended as more vaccines arrive.

No walk-ins are allowed. Seniors who can’t find transportation to their appointments can call 211 — the government’s information line for programs and services — for help.

For more information about Alberta’s vaccination plan, go here.

Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan’s Phase 1 is still underway, focusing on health care workers, residents and staff of long-term care homes, residents 70 years and older and residents in remote and northern regions over the age of 50.

People eligible for vaccination in Phase 1 are being contacted directly by phone or mail.

Phase 2 is expected to begin in April and will cover the general population, starting with people aged 60-69 and working down in 10 year increments. Phase 2 will also cover individuals considered to be extremely vulnerable to infection, and staff and residents of group homes and emergency shelters.

Doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are loaded onto a plane for delivery to Southend and Wollaston in Saskatchewan. (Colin Ratushniak )

The province said it expects that when Phase 2 begins, the Saskatchewan Health Authority will be operating 226 vaccine clinics in 181 communities across the province. Those clinics will include mass vaccination sites, drive-through locations and mobile vaccination clinics. More sites will be added through pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

A mass vaccination clinic will open in April at the International Trade Centre at Evraz Place in Regina. Appointments will be needed.

People will be asked to register for vaccination through an online platform or by phone. 

For more information about Saskatchewan’s vaccination plan, go here.

Manitoba

Manitoba’s immunization teams are now vaccinating all residents age 92 and older (born on or before December 31, 1928) and First Nations people 72 and older (born on or before December 31, 1948).

Vaccinations are also available to individuals working in laboratories handling COVID-19 specimens, in immunization clinics and testing sites and in isolation accommodation facilities. The vaccine is being offered now to those working in congregate living facilities who were born on or before Dec. 31, 1960, and people working in licensed personal care homes.

A COVID-19 vaccine dose is administered in Thompson, Manitoba. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Health care staff who work for acute care facilities and emergency response services (ERS), home care workers, correctional facility staff, dental office staff and those who work in facilities providing services insured by Manitoba Health and Seniors Care (such as family medical practices and outpatient surgical units) are eligible for the vaccine.

So are community services workers, staff at homeless shelters and family violence shelters and those who provide disability services and child and family services.

The next eligible group includes health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of shared living facilities and essential workers. It’s not known yet when Manitobans in this group will receive their shots.

Manitoba has set up a Vaccine Queue Calculator to allow Manitobans to estimate when they’ll receive their vaccines.

The province expects to open two new “supersites” for large-scale vaccinations in Selkirk and the Morden-Wrinkler area the week of March 12, bringing the number of such sites to six. (Three are in Winnipeg, Brandon and Thompson, with a fourth facility at the airport outside Thompson.)

The province says it plans to expand to 13 supersites throughout Manitoba in April. It has hired 1,212 staffers to help with the vaccination effort.

More than 400 medical clinics and pharmacies have applied to be a part of the immunization campaign.

Manitobans with questions about the vaccination plan and their position in the queue can go to this website or call a toll-free number: 1-844-626-8222.

Manitoba’s booking portal is still in the testing phase.

Ontario

Ontario’s vaccination rollout is in Phase 1, which covers staff and essential caregivers in long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes, and highest-priority health care workers.

In March, Phase 1 is expected to expand to adults 80 years of age and older, staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings, high-priority health care workers, all Indigenous adults and adult recipients of chronic home care.

Vaccines have been delivered to Ontario’s 34 public health units in Ontario and the pace of the rollout could vary depending on the region.

Nicole Laplante, centre, receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Embrun, Ont., Jan. 13, 2021. (Submitted by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit)

Phase 2 is set to begin in April. This phase will add more vaccination sites, including municipally run locations, hospital sites, mobile vaccination locations, pharmacies, clinics, community-run health centres and aboriginal health centres.

In August, the province is to move to Phase 3 and make vaccines available to everyone who wants to be immunized.

The Ontario government’s online portal for mass vaccination pre-registration and appointment booking is set to launch on March 15. For those without access to the internet, the province will establish a customer service desk to register and book appointments. Neighbourhood mobile clinics are being planned by local public health units. 

For more information about Ontario’s vaccination plan, go here.

Quebec

On the island of Montreal, vaccinations are now available to people 80 and older. To make an appointment, go to this website or call 514-644-4545.

The rest of Quebec will start vaccinating anyone 85 years of age or older next week. Anyone born before 1936 can start making an appointment for their first dose on February 25, by phone (1-877-644-4545) or online.

Quebec has posted a document describing the procedure here. Once more vaccines arrive, Quebec plans to expand inoculations to include seniors 70 and up and those with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

The province has started to prepare by securing mass vaccination sites, such as the Olympic Stadium.

Quebec Premier François Legault and Health Minister Christian Dubé watch a woman register for her COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

It has set up mass vaccination sites already in major urban centres in anticipation of an increase in the vaccine supply.  One of them — the Palais des congress de Montreal, in the heart of downtown — is set up to vaccinate up to 2,000 people per day.

For more information about Quebec’s vaccination plan, go here.

New Brunswick

Phase 1 is underway, covering long-term care residents and staff, front line health care staff, First Nations adults 16+ and individuals 85 and over.

Clinics are being held this week and next at 321 licensed long-term care homes and those vaccinations are expected to be completed by March 14. Residents and staff are being contacted directly by their employers to register for vaccination. Others in Phase 1 are being contacted directly to book appointments.

For individuals aged 85 or older living in the community, details on clinic locations and registration process will be announced in the coming weeks.

A box containing 1,950 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 arrives at the Miramichi Regional Hospital. (Government of New Brunswick)

Phase 2 starts in April and will include residents in other communal settings, health care workers providing direct patient care (such as pharmacists and dentists), firefighters, police officers, home support workers for seniors, people 70 and over, people with complex medical conditions, volunteers at long-term care homes, people 40 and over with three or more chronic conditions and truckers or workers who cross the Canada-U.S. border regularly.

The N.B. government’s website says that details about who can register for vaccination and when will be announced in the coming weeks. Clinic locations are also being finalized.

The province is asking residents to wait for those details instead of tying up resources by calling the provincial tele-care number or their local health practitioners.

Prince Edward Island

P.E.I.’s vaccination effort is in its first phase, which will continue throughout March. Public health nurses had been delivering the vaccines; trained pharmacists were approved recently to administer the doses as well.

Those getting vaccinations in this phase are residents and staff of long term care homes, health care workers in direct contact with patients who face an elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors 80 and older, adults 18 and older living in Indigenous communities, residents and staff of shared living facilities (such as group homes, shelters and correctional facilities) and truck drivers and other workers who routinely travel out of the province.

Starting February 22, vaccine clinics in P.E.I. will start giving doses to seniors aged 80 and older. You can find a list of clinics here.

The province says other population groups will be told when they can be vaccinated as the rollout continues. The province expects to have four clinics in operation starting in March — in O’Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown and Montague.

Vaccinations in P.E.I. are by appointment only. When their turns come up, Islanders can book their appointments by calling 1-844-975-3303 or by filling out a form available through this government website.

For more information about Prince Edward Island’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s vaccination effort is in Phase 1. That covers those who work directly with patients in hospitals or care homes, people who live and work in long term care homes and people who live and work in adult residential care centres and regional rehabilitation centres.

There’s no word yet on when the next phase of the vaccine rollout will begin. When it does, it will include: anyone who works in a hospital (and might come into contact with patients); doctors, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists and pharmacists; people who live in correctional facilities, shelters and temporary foreign worker housing; people who are required to travel regularly for work (such as truck drivers); people responsible for food security (such as workers in large food processing plants); those aged 75 to 79 and those 80 and older.

Alvena Poole, 83, receives her vaccine from Allison Milley, a nurse at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, on Feb. 22, 2021. (Communications Nova Scotia)

N.S. Public Health is holding prototype clinics before deploying vaccines across the province.

The first prototype clinic — for seniors 80 years and older — opened at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax starting the week of Feb. 22. 

More clinics will open in the coming weeks: in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro on March 8; in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth on March 15, and in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth on March 22.

The province also is planning to set up clinics in pharmacies as well.

Those at the head of the queue will receive letters from the province explaining how to schedule a vaccination appointment.

Once contacted, appointments can then be booked online or by calling 1-833-797-7772 the week before the clinic opens.

For more information about Nova Scotia’s vaccination plan, go here.

Newfoundland & Labrador

Newfoundland & Labrador is in Phase 1 of its immunization plan. Doses in this first phase are earmarked for congregate living settings for seniors, health care workers at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, people 85 and older and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities.

It’s not known yet when the next phase of the province’s vaccination plan will begin. That phase will cover health care workers who were not included in Phase 1, residents and staff of all other congregate living settings and essential workers. These categories are still being defined by the province and its health department says details of future phases are still being finalized.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald smiles at St. John’s public health nurse Ellen Foley-Vick after giving her the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in St. John’s, Nfld., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Sarah Smellie/The Canadian Press)

For more information about Newfoundland & Labrador’s vaccination plan, go here.

Yukon

Priority groups in Yukon have received their first doses and, in some cases, their second doses as well.

As of Feb. 19, high-risk health care workers and long-term care residents and staff had received their second doses.

Those living in remote rural communities and people aged 65 and older are to start getting their second doses beginning the week of Feb. 22.

Over the past few weeks, every community outside Whitehorse has been visited by one of two mobile vaccine clinic teams (named ‘Balto’ and ‘Togo’) delivering first doses to all residents 18 and over.

In Whitehorse, a mass clinic will open on March 1 that will deliver up to 800 immunizations a day — both first and second doses.

All Whitehorse residents 18 years of age and older can now book appointments for their first shots.

Those living in Whitehorse must book appointments online or by calling 1-877-374-0425. In rural Yukon, where internet access may be an issue, appointments are recommended but walk-ins are also welcome.

For more information about Yukon’s vaccination plan, go here.

Northwest Territories

All NWT long-term care residents have received first and second doses. The NWT COVID-19 vaccine strategy says the general population can expect access to the vaccine in late March or early April.

The original NWT strategy said there would be enough doses to immunize 75 per cent of eligible residents 18 years of age and older should by the end of March. That target date has now been put off to the end of April.

“This generous initial allocation from the federal government recognizes the territories’ limited health care system capacities and the vulnerabilities of remote Indigenous communities,” says the strategy document.

The vaccine schedule and booking tool are now online and will be updated as more doses are delivered.

Dr. AnneMarie Pegg, territorial medical director, receives her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at Stanton Territorial Hospital on Jan. 10. (Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority)

Those living in larger centres are expected to call or book online for their vaccinations. In smaller communities, dates and locations for vaccination clinics will be advertised and residents will be asked to show up.

Multiple small mobile vaccine units are travelling to 33 communities to help local health care staff administer doses.

For more information on NWT’s vaccination plan, go here.

Nunavut

Nunavut says it expects to have 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18 vaccinated by the end of March.

Nunavut is only using the Moderna vaccine right now and has been staging vaccine clinics in two or three communities at a time.

Starting March 1, the next round of clinics to administer the first dose will be held in five communities.  

Starting around March 5 and March 6, nine locations will start holding clinics for the second dose of the vaccine. 

In Iqaluit, vaccinations are by appointment only and are being directed toward elders 60 or older, those living in community shelters, front line health workers, Medivac flight crews, residents and staff of group homes and Iqaluit’s Akaausisarvik Mental Health Treatment Centre, and residents and staff of correctional facilities.

The next phase in Iqaluit is expected to begin March 1 and will be for people age 45 and over.

Nunavut relays COVID-19 information through public service announcements on TV, social media, community radio and the government’s website. The website shows the locations of clinics, their times of operation and contact information.

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Vaccinated should wear masks indoors in US COVID hotspots: CDC – Al Jazeera English

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People in parts of the United States where COVID-19 infections are surging should wear masks indoors even if they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the country’s public health agency has advised.

Citing new information about the ability of the Delta variant to spread among vaccinated people, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.

“In areas with substantial and high transmission, CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public, indoor settings to help prevent the spread of the Delta variant and help protect others,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters during an afternoon news briefing.

The US is averaging more than 57,000 coronavirus cases a day and 24,000 hospitalisations, and public health officials for weeks have warned that COVID-19 infections are increasing, especially in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

Walensky said while vaccinated Americans represent “a very small amount of transmission” – and stressed that the vast majority of new infections, hospitalisations and deaths is occurring among unvaccinated individuals – vaccinated people still have the ability to pass the virus on to others.

“With the Delta variant, vaccinating more Americans now is more urgent than ever,” she added.

Rising infections

The recent rise in cases comes after mask-wearing and other public health restrictions were loosened, and restaurants, bars and other venues reopened in many parts of the country amid a sharp increase in national vaccination rates.

The new CDC recommendations are not binding and many Americans, especially in Republican-leaning states, may choose not to follow them.

“This is not a decision that we … have made lightly,” Walensky said about the new guidelines, acknowledging that many people are frustrated by the ongoing pandemic. “This new data weighs heavily on me, this new guidance weighs heavily on me.”

US President Joe Biden welcomed the agency’s recommendations on Tuesday as “another step on our journey to defeating this virus”.

“I hope all Americans who live in the areas covered by the CDC guidance will follow it,” Biden said in a statement, adding that masking students in schools “is inconvenient … but will allow them to learn and be with their classmates with the best available protection”.

“Most importantly, today’s announcement also makes clear that the most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated. Although most U.S. adults are vaccinated, too many are not. While we have seen an increase in vaccinations in recent days, we still need to do better,” Biden said.

The CDC had advised people to wear masks for much of the pandemic in settings where they could not maintain six feet (1.8 metres) of distance between themselves and others.

In April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at summer camps or at schools, either.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the recent increase in cases. [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

Coronavirus vaccines are widely available across the US, and 60 percent of adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to CDC data. But millions of people remain unvaccinated – and the recent increase in cases is especially pronounced in US states with low vaccination rates, such as Florida.

‘Wrong direction’

Dr Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical adviser, warned during the weekend that the US was moving “in the wrong direction” on the coronavirus – and he urged people to get jabs.

“If you look at the inflection of the curve of new infections,” Fauci said in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union programme on Sunday, stressing that most infections are among Americans who have not been vaccinated.

“It is among the unvaccinated and since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that’s a problem – particularly when you have a variant like Delta which has this extraordinary characteristic of being able to spread very efficiently and very easily from person to person,” he said.

Some municipalities and states have re-imposed mask mandates amid the increase in cases.

In St Louis, Missouri, a county-wide mask mandate took effect on Monday, requiring most people, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors and on public transportation.

Sixty percent of US adults are fully vaccinated while 69 percent have received at least one dose, according to data from the CDC [File: Karen Pulfer Focht/Reuters]

Los Angeles, California also recently reinstated its mask requirement, while the top public health official in King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, last week asked everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces – even if they are vaccinated.

Calls have also grown to require health workers, among others, to be vaccinated.

“Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” a group of more than 50 healthcare organisations, including the American Medical Association, said on Monday.

That same day, the US Department of Veterans Affairs said it would require its doctors and other medical staff to get COVID-19 vaccines, becoming the first federal agency to impose such a mandate.

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BC Steps Up Measures to Increase Vaccinations – Yahoo News Canada

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British Columbia’s vaccination strategy is changing course to target the more than 900,000 eligible people who are not yet immunized against COVID-19.

The Vax For BC campaign will see mass vaccination clinics scale down to make way for smaller community-based clinics, drop-in centres and mobile vaccination clinics to meet people where they are.

The interval between shots will drop from eight weeks to seven, and as low as six in regions with particularly low vaccination rates.

And the province will make 20,000 shots available without appointments on “Walk-in Wednesday,” Aug. 4, in addition to freeing up more shots at every location for walk-ins.

“We are making it even easier for people to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their loved ones against COVID-19,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Tuesday.

More than 80 per cent of people over 12 in B.C. have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, an effort that public health officials said should be commended.

But the missing 19.6 per cent, “those 900,000 are really, really important” to prevent a fourth wave of the virus in B.C., Dr. Penny Ballem said today.

“We’ve had incredible success and commitment by the public,” said Ballem, who is in charge of the vaccine rollout. “But we have to keep going, and we have to capture more people.”

Unvaccinated people accounted for about 78 per cent of COVID-19 cases between June 15 and July 15, despite representing only 19.6 per cent of the population.

Those who had a single dose accounted for 18 per cent of cases. And fewer than five per cent of cases involved people who were fully vaccinated.

Overall, vaccinations are preventing about 70 per cent of potential infections, according to recent provincial modelling.

“It is extremely important to get both doses of the vaccine,” said Henry.

The recent slow increase in daily and active cases is still largely driven by social gatherings and events with unvaccinated people, Henry said, most of which are in the Interior.

“We don’t yet have enough people with full protection that it can’t spread,” Henry said.

Increasing vaccinations is particularly important in the Northern and Interior Health regions, Henry said, where long travel times from small communities to existing clinics can make it difficult to get vaccinated.

The regional differences are stark. In Northern Health, 32.5 per cent of the eligible population has not received any vaccine, more than double the 14.8 per cent who are unvaccinated in Vancouver Coastal Health.

In Interior Health, where nearly two-thirds of recent cases have been located, 26.2 per cent of the population is unvaccinated.

When asked about how much of that is due to access and how much is due to vaccine hesitancy or anti-vax sentiments, Henry said the province estimates only about five per cent of people are staunchly opposed to COVID-19 vaccines.

The others, hopefully, can be reached by answering their questions about the vaccines and making it as easy as possible to get vaccinated by bringing the shots to them, she said.

“This is the time for us to say, ‘We can answer your questions,’” said Henry.

The province is not currently considering punitive measures, like mandating businesses to require proof of immunization for service, to encourage people to be vaccinated.

But Henry said businesses and events are within their rights to require vaccines for entry or separate vaccinated and unvaccinated customers.

“It is a choice not to get vaccinated, but there are consequences,” said Henry.

Health-care workers who choose not to be vaccinated will be required to mask and present negative COVID-19 tests, she added, and potentially barred from working in certain units.

“I have very limited patience for people in health care who are not vaccinated,” said Henry. “There will be consequences for that decision.”

Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix noted that with increased vaccination and the province’s low and stable hospitalization rates, it is unlikely B.C. will see more restrictions or the mask mandate reinstated. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control recommended a return to mask mandates today.

“COVID is going to be with us for a while,” said Dix. “The pandemic, we hope, will not.”

Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee

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COVID-19 in B.C.: New immunization campaign; cases among and measures against unvaccinated people; and more – The Georgia Straight

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With B.C. nearing the end of the fourth and final phase of its COVID-19 immunization plan, health officials provided an update on where the province is at with vaccinations and what it will do next.

At a news conference in Vancouver today (July 27), B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provided updates about vaccination data and announced the launch of a new campaign that reflects a shift from mass vaccinations to reaching those who haven’t yet received vaccinations.

“With more than 80 percent of eligible people in B.C. vaccinated with their first dose and more than 60 percent fully vaccinated, we have made tremendous progress in our vaccine rollout,” Dix said.

Over 6.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have now been administered in B.C. As of July 26, 3,736,651 people (80.6 percent) who are 12 years and above have received their first dose and 2,840,194 (61.3 percent) have received their second dose.

While Dix, Henry, and Ballem thanked everyone who has received their vaccinations, and those working in the immunization program, all note that more vaccinations still need to be done.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, with B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem
Province of British Columbia

“We now know that the majority of our new cases, some of which have increased in the last little while, are among people who have not yet received their vaccine,” Henry said.

According to data from the B.C. Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC), there were 1,210 COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated people from June 15 to July 15 while there were 499 cases among people who had only received one dose.

In comparison, there were 65 cases, or less than five percent of COVID-19 cases, from June 15 to July 15 were among fully vaccinated people.

During that same time period, Henry pointed out that there has been a “high rate” of unvaccinated individuals—137 out of 176 hospitalized cases, or 78 percent—who have been hospitalized in B.C. with COVID-19, and an additional 18 percent of those who have only received their first dose.

Henry also cited her colleagues in the U.S. who are seeing a “new pandemic” among those who are unvaccinated.

Ballem presented data about unvaccinated population numbers by regional health authorities.

In total, there are 906,722 British Columbians, or 19.6 percent, who have not yet been vaccinated.

The largest number of unvaccinated individuals is in Fraser Health 315,748—but that represents 18.4 percent of the population in that region.

Northern Health has the highest percentage of unvaccinated people, with 84,573 individuals, or 32.5 percent of its population.

Interior Health follows Fraser Health with 199,159 unvaccinated individuals, but follows Northern Health percentage-wise with 26.2 percent of its population unvaccinated.

Vancouver Coastal Health has 141,169 unvaccinated individuals, or 18.1 percent, which is about the same percentage as Fraser Health. 

Island Health has 166,123 unvaccinated individuals but that represents the lowest percentage in the province at 14.8 percent of its population.

Henry explained that there are vaccination challenges in Northern and Interior Health where there are small communities that are physically distant from each other, have lack of access to vaccines, or have been affected by wildfires.

B.C. immunization rollout team executive lead Penny Ballem, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, and Health Minister Adrian Dix
Province of British Columbia

When asked if the province will take any punitive measures against those who are unvaccinated, Dix said that although vaccinations aren’t and won’t be mandatory in B.C., but “measures will be taken” to protect people from those who are unvaccinated, such as in longterm care facilities.

Henry explained that based on a survey, people have expressed a range of reasons why they remain unvaccinated, ranging from inconvenience of accessing vaccinations to lack of confidence in vaccines.

“It is choice to be immunized, but there are consequences for people who are not immunized,” Henry said, “and that’s going to be more important for us as we head into the fall, as we know that this virus will increase, as we know that we’ll likely see other respiratory viruses, and—incredibly important from my perspective—is protecting those people who we know may not mount as good an immune response from vaccine.”

Of the latter group, Henry said that includes seniors and elders, and those in longterm care and the healthcare sector.

As previously announced, Henry said that those working in healthcare who choose to remain unvaccinated will need to take additional prevention and control measures, such as wearing masks and regular testing, and that they won’t be permitted to work in specific settings.

“I have very little patience for people who are not vaccinated in healthcare,” Henry said, with a self-effacing chuckle.

Henry said that the number of anti-vaxxers in the province remains low, at about one to two percent of the population, which she said is a “very small percent” but that they are very organized and vocal.

Dix cited the example of measles immunizations amongst students in 2019, and that if there is an outbreak of measles, those who aren’t immunized will be excluded from school. Accordingly, he said that there will be similar consequences for not being immunized for COVID-19.

However, he also pointed out how young people responded to the measles immunization program and that he expects that those aged 18 to 24 will be more immunized than any other age group because of their willingness to participate in the program.

Citing the examples of recent clusters connected to nightclubs and gatherings in indoor settings with poor ventilation such as weddings or funerals, Henry said she is in support of businesses opting to require anyone to only admit people who are vaccinated.

“That gives people the level of comfort that they are in a safer environment,” she said. She added that if transmission occurs at a business, health officials will temporarily shut down the business.

The Vax for B.C. campaign, which will be aimed at reaching people who still need vaccinations, begins today and will continue throughout August, and will involve community events, vaccination vehicles, and mobile clinics across the province. More focus will be placed on local public health clinics, community outreach efforts, mobile programs, and pop-up clinics.

These events will permit all eligible individuals to drop in for vaccinations without appointments (although registration and booking with the provincial Get Vaccinated system is still encouraged).

The first provincewide Walk-in Wednesday will be held on August 4, which will make 20,000 doses available for drop-ins for anyone who is 12 years and above and is eligible for their first or second doses.  

A complete list of Vax for B.C. events throughout the province is available online

For today’s B.C. COVID-19 update, see this article

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