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COVID-19 bookings for vaccine appointments begin Monday in B.C. – Vancouver Sun



The booking of appointments Monday marks the start of a massive rollout to the general population

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Health authorities in B.C. are establishing vaccine clinic sites and have been hiring phone agents to begin taking appointments on Monday for the first time for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Up until now, the limited supply of vaccine in the province has been targeted at front-line health care workers, long-term care home residents and staff, and Indigenous people in remote communities.

The booking of appointments Monday marks the start of a rollout to the general population.

The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has posted on its website nearly two dozen vaccination clinics, including hours and addresses, that cover communities in Metro Vancouver, along the Sea to Sky corridor and on the Sunshine and Central coasts. Included among the locations are community centres, COVID-19 testing sites, Royal Canadian Legion branches, and Richmond’s River Rock casino.

Vancouver Island Health has sports and community centres, hospitals and an arena among its 19 listed vaccination clinic locations, and Northern Health officials have posted clinic locations in schools, hospitals, recreation and community centres in about two dozen communities.


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Interior Health has posted four dozen clinic locations in nearly as many communities. Among the venues are curling rinks, hospitals, community halls, a church and a band office.

Fraser Health has listed specific clinic locations in about a dozen communities on their website through their online booking system, including in Surrey, Langley and Hope. The vaccine clinic sites are mainly at hospitals and existing COVID-19 testing sites.

Victoria Lee, the president and CEO of Fraser Health, told reporters during a news conference Sunday that the authority had enlisted some 500 volunteer physicians and hundreds more students and pharmacists to assist in the immunization effort. Those volunteers are in addition to those who have been hired to vaccinate on a full-time basis.

Lee said Fraser Health has the capacity to immunize up to 9,000 people a day, and it plans to ramp up to 20,000 a day as the province’s immunization program expands.

All five health authorities in B.C. will use a phone-in system. People 90-and-over can begin booking appointments on March 8 for a March 15 start. Indigenous people age 65 and over will also be able to begin booking appointments.

Those aged 80-and-over in Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton can call starting March 8, according to VCH.

All health authority websites say that when people book appointments they’ll be given a clinic location.

Vancouver Island Health spokesman Andrew Leyne said they have contracted 35 Telus phone agents to assist 10 to 15 Island Health phone agents to answer booking calls. The agents will take calls 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week, Leyne said in a written response.


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Other health authorities didn’t answer questions on how they would ensure they could handle calls, including how many people would be available to answer phones and book appointments.

In the following two weeks, those 85-and-over and those 80-and-over will also be able to book appointments.

COVID vaccination site at 6110 Boundary Rd. in Burnaby.
COVID vaccination site at 6110 Boundary Rd. in Burnaby. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Those aged 80-and-over and Indigenous people 65-and-over not in care homes comprise about 240,000 British Columbians, among 4.3 million people who the province hopes to vaccinate by the end of September.

This first rollout to the public will be a test of the phone booking system and of the clinic locations.

Karen Bloemink, the vice-president of pandemic response at Interior Health, said it was important to remember that while the phone lines open Monday, B.C. is still only in the first few months of a lengthy vaccination effort.

“Immunizations will continue to be available to people in British Columbia for weeks and months to come. So we’d like to reassure everyone that they should not worry they’ll miss their chance to receive a vaccine,” Bloemink said.

She said the authority anticipated many calls in the first few days and asked for people to be patient and stick to the call-in schedule.

Unlike other jurisdictions, including Alberta and Washington state, in B.C. only the Fraser Health Authority has set up an option to book an appointment online.

In Alberta, the phone and online systems were initially overwhelmed when launched in late February to book appointments for those 75-and-over. Washington state also experienced early technical problems with their online appointment booking system. The state has up to 1,200 sites where vaccines can be administered, including pharmacies and doctors’ offices.


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B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is confident the province will be able to handle the ramped-up rollout to the public. He noted last week the health authorities organize immunization clinics every year for childhood diseases and for influenza, and that already COVID-19 vaccine clinics had been held in more than 1,000 sites.

“There will be a massive number of clinics, but we’re also going to where people need us to deliver this if they can’t come to us,” said Dix.

With a file from Matt Robinson.

Where can I get vaccinated?

Vaccination clinics will be set up in gyms, arenas, convention halls, and community halls. Residents of rural communities may be able to access mobile clinics, which can also provide vaccinations to people who are homebound with mobility challenges.

Click the links to find your closest clinic location, or click here for a full list of clinics in B.C.:

• Fraser Health immunization clinic locations
• Vancouver Coastal Health immunization clinic locations
• Interior Health immunization clinic locations
• Island Health immunization clinic locations
• Northern Health immunization clinic locations

More on B.C.’s vaccine rollout:

COVID-19: Here’s how to get your vaccination shot in B.C.

COVID-19 in B.C.: Can I choose my vaccine? Efficacy, timing explained

Get the latest COVID-19 news delivered to your inbox weeknights at 7 p.m. by subscribing to our newsletter here.


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CANADA STOCKS – TSX falls 0.14% to 19,201.28



* The Toronto Stock Exchange’s TSX falls 0.14 percent to 19,201.28

* Leading the index were Stantec Inc <STN.TO​>, up 3.4%, Imperial Oil Ltd​, up 3.3%, and Corus Entertainment Inc​, higher by 2.9%.

* Lagging shares were Aphria Inc​​, down 14.2%, Village Farms International Inc​, down 9.9%, and Aurora Cannabis Inc​, lower by 9.4%.

* On the TSX 91 issues rose and 134 fell as a 0.7-to-1 ratio favored decliners. There were 24 new highs and no new lows, with total volume of 228.0 million shares.

* The most heavily traded shares by volume were Toronto-dominion Bank, Royal Bank Of Canada and Suncor Energy Inc.

* The TSX’s energy group fell 0.32 points, or 0.3%, while the financials sector climbed 2.46 points, or 0.7%.

* West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose 0.52%, or $0.31, to $59.63 a barrel. Brent crude  rose 0.4%, or $0.25, to $63.2 [O/R]

* The TSX is up 10.1% for the year.

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Air Canada signs C$5.9 billion government aid package, agrees to buy Airbus, Boeing jets



By David Ljunggren and Allison Lampert

OTTAWA/MONTREAL (Reuters) -Air Canada, struggling with a collapse in traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached a deal on Monday on a long-awaited aid package with the federal government that would allow it to access up to C$5.9 billion ($4.69 billion) in funds.

The agreement – the largest individual coronavirus-related loan that Ottawa has arranged with a company – was announced after the airline industry criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government for dawdling. The United States and France acted much more quickly to help major carriers.

Canada‘s largest carrier, which last year cut over half its workforce, or 20,000 jobs, and other airlines have been negotiating with the government for months on a coronavirus aid package.

In February, Air Canada reported a net loss for 2020 of C$4.65 billion, compared with a 2019 profit of C$1.48 billion.

As part of the deal, Air Canada agreed to ban share buybacks and dividends, cap annual compensation for senior executives at C$1 million a year and preserve jobs at the current level, which is 14,859.

It will also proceed with planned purchases of 33 Airbus SE 220 airliners and 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX airliners.

Chris Murray, managing director, equity research at ATB Capital Markets, said the deal took into account the “specific needs of Air Canada in the short and medium term without being overly onerous.”

He added: “It gives them some flexibility in drawing down additional liquidity as needed.”

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the government was still in negotiations with other airlines about possible aid.

Canada, the world’s second-largest nation by area, depends heavily on civil aviation to keep remote communities connected.

Opposition politicians fretted that further delays in announcing aid could result in permanent damage to the country.

Air Canada said it would resume services on nearly all of the routes it had suspended because of COVID-19.


The deal removes a potential political challenge for the Liberals, who insiders say are set to trigger an election later this year.

The government has agreed to buy C$500 million worth of shares in the airline, at C$23.1793 each, or a 14.2% discount to Monday’s close, a roughly 6% stake.

“Maintaining a competitive airline sector and good jobs is crucially important,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters, adding the equity stake would allow taxpayers to benefit when the airline’s fortunes recovered.

The Canadian government previously approved similar loans for four other companies worth up to C$1.billion, including up to C$375 million to low-cost airline Sunwing Vacations Inc. The government has paid out C$73.47 billion under its wage subsidy program and C$46.11 billion in loans to hard-hit small businesses.

Michael Rousseau, Air Canada‘s president and chief executive officer, said the liquidity “provides a significant layer of insurance for Air Canada.”

Jerry Dias, head of the Unifor private-sector union, described the announcement as “a good deal for everybody.”

Unifor represents more than 16,000 members working in the air transportation sector.

But the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents roughly 10,000 Air Canada flight attendants, said the package protected the jobs of current workers rather than the 7,500 members of its union who had been let go by the carrier.

($1=1.2567 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa and Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)

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U.K. advises limiting AstraZeneca in under-30s amid clot worry



British authorities recommended Wednesday that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine not be given to adults under 30 where possible because of strengthening evidence that the shot may be linked to rare blood clots.

The recommendation came as regulators both in the United Kingdom and the European Union emphasized that the benefits of receiving the vaccine continue to outweigh the risks for most people — even though the European Medicines Agency said it had found a “possible link” between the shot and the rare clots. British authorities recommended that people under 30 be offered alternatives to AstraZeneca. But the EMA advised no such age restrictions, leaving it up to its member-countries to decide whether to limit its use.

Several countries have already imposed limits on who can receive the vaccine, and any restrictions are closely watched since the vaccine, which is cheaper and easier to store than many others, is critical to global immunization campaigns and is a pillar of the UN-backed program known as COVAX that aims to get vaccines to some of the world’s poorest countries.

“This is a course correction, there’s no question about that,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said during a press briefing. “But it is, in a sense, in medicine quite normal for physicians to alter their preferences for how patients are treated over time.”

Van-Tam said the effect on Britain’s vaccination timetable — one of the speediest in the world — should be “zero or negligible,” assuming the National Health Service receives expected deliveries of other vaccines, including those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

EU and U.K. regulators held simultaneous press conferences Wednesday afternoon to announce the results of investigations into reports of blood clots that sparked concern about the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The EU agency described the clots as “very rare” side effects. Dr Sabine Straus, chair of EMA’s Safety Committee, said the best data is coming from Germany where there is one report of the rare clots for every 100,000 doses given, although she noted far fewer reports in the U.K. Still, that’s less than the clot risk that healthy women face from birth control pills, noted another expert, Dr. Peter Arlett.

The agency said most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 within two weeks of vaccination — but based on the currently available evidence, it was not able to identify specific risk factors. Experts reviewed several dozen cases that came mainly from Europe and the U.K., where around 25 million people have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The reported cases of unusual blood clotting following vaccination with the AstraZeneca vaccine should be listed as possible side effects of the vaccine,” said Emer Cooke, the agency’s executive director. “The risk of mortality from COVID is much greater than the risk of mortality from these side effects.”

Arlett said there is no information suggesting an increased risk from the other major COVID-19 vaccines.

The EMA’s investigation focused on unusual types of blood clots that are occurring along with low blood platelets. One rare clot type appears in multiple blood vessels and the other in veins that drain blood from the brain.

While the benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks, that assessment is “more finely balanced” among younger people who are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19, the U.K’s Van-Tam said.

“We are not advising a stop to any vaccination for any individual in any age group,” said Wei Shen Lim, who chairs Britain’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization. “We are advising a preference for one vaccine over another vaccine for a particular age group, really out of the utmost caution rather than because we have any serious safety concerns.”

In March, more than a dozen countries, mostly in Europe, suspended their use of AstraZeneca over the blood clot issue. Most restarted — some with age restrictions — after the EMA said countries should continue using the potentially life-saving vaccine.

Britain, which relies heavily on AstraZeneca, however, continued to use it.

The suspensions were seen as particularly damaging for AstraZeneca because they came after repeated missteps in how the company reported data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and concerns over how well its shot worked in older people. That has led to frequently changing advice in some countries on who can take the vaccine, raising worries that AstraZeneca’s credibility could be permanently damaged, spurring more vaccine hesitancy and prolonging the pandemic.

Dr. Peter English, who formerly chaired the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the back-and-forth over the AstraZeneca vaccine globally could have serious consequences.

“We can’t afford not to use this vaccine if we are going to end the pandemic,” he said.

In some countries, authorities have already noted hesitance toward the AstraZeneca shot.

“People come and they are reluctant to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, they ask us if we also use anything else,” said Florentina Nastase, a doctor and co-ordinator at a vaccination centre in Bucharest, Romania. “There were cases in which people (scheduled for the AstraZeneca) didn’t show up, there were cases when people came to the centre and saw that we use only AstraZeneca and refused (to be inoculated).”

Meanwhile, the governor of Italy’s northern Veneto region had said earlier Wednesday that any decision to change the guidance on AstraZeneca would cause major disruptions to immunizations — at a time when Europe is already struggling to ramp them up — and could create more confusion about the shot.

“If they do like Germany, and allow Astra Zeneca only to people over 65, that would be absurd. Before it was only for people under 55. Put yourself in the place of citizens, it is hard to understand anything,” Luca Zaia told reporters.

The latest suspension of AstraZeneca came in Spain’s Castilla y Leon region, where health chief Veronica Casado said Wednesday that “the principle of prudence” drove her to put a temporary hold on the vaccine that she still backed as being both effective and necessary.

French health authorities had said they, too, were awaiting EMA’s conclusions, as were some officials in Asia.

On Wednesday, South Korea said it would temporarily suspend the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in people 60 and younger. In that age group, the country is only currently vaccinating health workers and people in long-term care settings.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said it would also pause a vaccine rollout to school nurses and teachers that was to begin on Thursday, while awaiting the outcome of the EMA’s review.

But some experts urged perspective. Prof Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of Britain’s vaccination committee, said that the program has saved at least 6,000 lives in the first three months and will help pave the way back to normal life.

“What is clear it that for the vast majority of people the benefits of the Oxford AZ vaccine far outweigh any extremely small risk,” he said. “And the Oxford AZ vaccine will continue to save many from suffering the devastating effects that can result from a COVID infection.”

Source: – CTV News

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