Vulnerable seniors and those who care for them will remain the top-priority for COVID-19 vaccinations for at least another week or two, according to B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“As we know, the burden of COVID-19 has been particularly heavy … on our seniors and elders and those who care for them, and that is where our focus has been and will continue to be for the next week or two here in British Columbia as we use the vaccine that we receive,” she said during a Thursday (January 7) briefing.
“And we’re going to continue to focus, as we say, to try and protect those who are most at risk in these first few weeks with the limited supply that we have.”
On Monday, Henry revealed B.C.’s plans to vaccinate 70,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities by the end of January.
The province also intends to vaccinate 30,000 frontline health-care workers — specifically, paramedics, and those who work in intensive care units and emergency departments at hospitals — by the end of the month.
Another 13,000 people in assisted living are expected to receive at least their first dose in January.
Bonnie confirmed Thursday that 41,064 British Columbians across all health regions have received their first dose since vaccines began rolling in last month — up from the 33,665 who were vaccinated as of a day earlier.
Both the Moderna Inc. vaccine and Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE (Nasdaq:BNTX) vaccine require two doses.
After the top-priority groups receive their vaccines in January, health officials plan to administer vaccines to elderly British Columbians above the age of 80.
Once vaccinated, the province will administer doses in descending five-year age brackets.
The province expects to have 792,000 doses delivered by the end of March.
Of those, 542,000 will come from Pfizer and 250,000 from Moderna.
Because the Moderna doses are easier to transport than the competing Pfizer vaccine, it’s seen as critical in ensuring remote regions in B.C. and Canada have access to vaccinations.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which must be maintained at temperatures as low as -80C, the Moderna needs to be maintained at just -20C.
Delivery of the Pfizer vaccine is currently the responsibility of the manufacturer due to the vaccine’s sensitivity, while FedEx Express Canada Corp. and Innomar Strategies Inc. are handling Moderna’s deliveries.
“The modeling tells us that somewhere around 60-75% of the population needs to be immunized so that the virus can’t find somebody who’s susceptible once somebody becomes ill, and that’s a way of protecting those around us who can’t be immunized, for example. So we’re a long way from that,” Henry said.
“That’s why we’re focusing on long-term care because that’s where the virus is most devastating.”
She added that she’s anticipating the approval of more vaccines — ones that are more mobile than the Pfizer and Moderna versions that require low temperatures for transportation and storage — but does not expect any new vaccines to get the green light before March.
Last month Henry outlined plans to delay the administration of second doses to 35 days after the first dose.
Pfizer and Moderna both recommend that second doses are administered about 28 days after the first doses.
Henry said Thursday that two weeks within getting the first dose, the protection rate of both vaccines is in the 85-90% range.
After the second dose, that goes up to 95%.
“So it tells us that once your body has developed an immune response, you have very high protective levels,” she said.
“If there’s any signal that people are not getting the protection they need because we’re delaying by a week their second dose, then we will change that. So it’s really important that we monitor these things as well around the world.”
Henry added that if vaccine supply levels increase as vaccinations scale up, “we absolutely will try and do it on the optimal schedule.”
COVID-19 outbreak over at Delta long-term care facility, says Fraser Health – Surrey Now-Leader – Surrey Now-Leader
Fraser Health has declared the COVID-19 outbreak over at a long-term care facility in Delta.
In an information bulletin Friday (Jan. 22), the health authority said the outbreak was over at Good Samaritan Delta View Care Centre. The outbreak was first declared Nov. 1, 2020.
According to the Ministry of Health’s weekly report on Jan. 20 for outbreaks in B.C. care homes, there were a total of 65 cases, with 26 among residents and patients and 39 among staff.
There were eight deaths, with all of them either residents or patients.
This was the second outbreak at the facility.
Meantime, Fraser Health has also declared outbreaks at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster and North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre in Port Coquitlam.
At Royal Columbian, two patients have tested positive for the virus after “evidence of transmission in a surgical unit.” The outbreak is “limited to one unit,” which is temporarily closed to admissions.
The emergency department remains open.
At North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre, 20 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.
Fraser Health said it is working with BC Corrections and Provincial Health Services Authority infection control.
COVID-19 vaccine update: B.C.'s premier, top health officials to give update on province's immunization plan – CTV News Vancouver
British Columbians eager to know when it’ll be their turn to get a COVID-19 vaccine were given a full immunization schedule on Friday.
Premier John Horgan announced the full plan alongside Health Minister Adrian Dix, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is B.C.’s executive lead for the province’s immunization rollout.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in extremely difficult ways,” Horgan said on Friday.
“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 province said its goal is to reduce deaths and severe illness, and since older people are at highest risk of falling ill from the virus, groups will be prioritized by age.
Officials explained the plan is based only on access to the Pfizer’s and Moderna’s two-dose vaccines. If other vaccines are approved for use in Canada, more populations or entire communities may be targeted at an earlier date.
Previously, B.C.’s health officials announced who would be vaccinated in Phase 2, taking place in February and March, including community-based seniors who are at least 80 years old and Indigenous seniors who are at least 65 years old.
On Friday, health officials announced Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the immunization plan, which together stretch from April through to September.
“At every step, our plan puts the health and safety of our most vulnerable people at the centre, and when it’s your turn, I encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine and help us move forward, together, to a healthier province,” Horgan said.
Phase 3, from April to June, includes people aged 79 to 65, in five-year increments based on birth year. People with several heath conditions will also be eligible during this phase as they’re considered “clinically extremely vulnerable.” A full list of those conditions is included at the bottom of this article.
Here is the timeline for Phase 3, based on birth year:
- Anyone aged 79 to 70 can get their first dose in April and their second dose in May.
- Anyone aged 69 to 65 can get their first dose in May and their second dose in June.
- Anyone aged 64 to 60 can get their first dose in June and their second dose in July.
- Anyone aged 79 to 16 who is considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” can get their doses between April and June.
“Our immunization plan is based on evidence and data and focused on immunizing people who are most vulnerable to the virus first,” Henry said Friday.
“We know that the single-greatest risk factor for illness and death from COVID-19 is increasing age.”
Phase 4, from July to September, will include people aged 59 to 18.
Here is the timeline for Phase 4, based on birth year:
- Anyone aged 59 to 40 can get their first dose in July and their second dose in August.
- Anyone aged 39 to 35 can get their first dose in July or August and their second dose in August or September.
- Anyone aged 34 to 30 can get their first dose in August and their second dose in September.
- Anyone aged 29 to 25 can get their first dose in August or September and their second dose in September.
- Anyone aged 24 to 18 can get their first and second doses in September.
Extensive trials haven’t been completed on people under the age of 18, officials explained.
“Right now it’s not necessarily a concern in that the evidence still supports young people are much less likely to get infected and much less likely to have severe illness,” Henry said.
“It is very likely once we have more traditional vaccines, they will be available for younger people … but our focus is on those most likely to have severe illness.”
How do I sign up for a vaccine?
More clinics will be set up in March by health authorities and may include mobile sites and home visits where necessary. Large spaces will likely be used for mass immunization in urban areas including in stadiums, convention halls, arenas, community halls and school gyms. In rural areas, mobile clinics in self-contained vehicles – like transit buses – might be used.
To get a vaccine, pre-registering will begin in March, with appointments set up by age about two to four weeks in advance. Registration will be available by mobile device, computer or phone. As well, a province-wide communication campaign is launching in February to let British Columbians know how they can register.
On the day of their appointment, people will have to go through a check-in process, get their vaccine and then wait in an observation area for about 15 minutes afterwards to watch for adverse reactions. Those who get a vaccine will receive a paper copy of their record and a reminder for when to book their second dose. Digital copies of a vaccine record will also be available.
Health officials explained that nobody will lose their place in line. For example, if someone is eligible to get their vaccine in Phase 2 but can’t for whatever reason, they can be immunized at any point after.
What health conditions are considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’?
Officials explained on Friday that anyone aged 16 to 79 who has a condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 can get their dose starting in April, regardless of age. Officials estimate there are about 180,000 people in B.C. who are eligible for early vaccination.
Those conditions include:
- Solid organ transplant recipients
- People with specific cancers including of the blood or bone marrow such as leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
- People with cancer who are undergoing active chemotherapy
- People with lung cancer who are undergoing radical radiotherapy
- People having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
- People having other targeted cancer treatments that can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
- People who have had bone marrow or stem-cell transplants in the last six months or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
- People with severe respiratory conditions, including all cystic fibrosis, severe asthma and severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- People with rare diseases that significantly increase the risk of infections (such as severe combined immunodeficiency, homozygous sickle cell disease)
- People on immunosuppression therapies enough to significantly increase risk of infection (biologic modifiers, high-dose steroids, AZT, cyclophosphamide)
- People who had a splenectomy (spleen removed)
- Adults with very significant developmental disabilities that increase risk (details to come from the health ministry)
- Adults on dialysis or with chronic kidney disease (Stage 5)
- Women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired
- Significant neuromuscular conditions requiring respiratory support
As of Thursday, B.C. had administered 104,901 doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines so far, including 1,680 second doses.
It’s estimated approximately 4.3 million people will be vaccinated in B.C. by the end of September.
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – CollingwoodToday
WHITEHORSE — A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Community Services Minister John Streiker says he’s outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.
Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesday and declared they would follow the territory’s mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.
He says the two people have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival.
Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek.
He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.
The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.
The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.
Streiker hadn’t confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn’t show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.
Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren’t living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.
Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it’s a remote border community, he said.
Yukon’s chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple’s visit is low, Streiker added.
Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again.
“I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers,” he said. “We’ve been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there’s another sort of layer of check, I just don’t want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.
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