Those next in line to get a COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. were given a timeline Monday for when they can book their appointment.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan all spoke in a news conference at the start of the week to outline the province’s next steps in its mass vaccination plan.
To date, only individuals in Phase 1 have been able to access the vaccine. That phase included residents of remote Indigenous communities, residents and staff of long-term care facilities, assisted living residents and hospital health-care workers who may be giving care to COVID-19 patients.
From Phase 1, health officials said they’ve completed vaccinating residents, staff and essential visitors to long-term care, as well as those assessed and waiting for long-term care. Vaccination of other groups in Phase 1 is almost complete.
Starting March 1, first doses will be given to those living and working in independent living centres and seniors’ supportive housing. For those individuals, health authorities will contact them directly for appointment details.
Then, starting on March 8, registration for seniors aged 80 and older and Indigenous peoples aged 65 and older will begin, with appointments starting as early as March 15.
Registration dates for those individuals Phase 2 are:
- March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years and older) and Indigenous peoples born in or before 1956 (65 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
- March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
- March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
How do I register for an appointment?
Starting on the day listed above for those eligible, individuals will be able to call a regional health centre to book an appointment. Call centres are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.
The call centre numbers are:
- Fraser Health: 1-855-755-2455
- Interior Health: 1-877-740-7747
- Island Health: 1-833-348-4787
- Northern Health: 1-844-255-7555
- Vancouver Coastal Health: 1-877-587-5767
Those living in the Fraser Health region can also book an appointment online at: Fraserhealth.ca/vaccinebookinginfo
When calling, the centre will ask for the person’s legal name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number and current contact information.
Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.’s immunization plan, said during the news conference that if the call centre’s queue is especially long when someone calls in, they might receive a message asking to call back.
Family members or care givers will also be able to make booking on people’s behalf, as long as they have the required information.
While seniors were relieved to finally have details on booking vaccine appointments, some expressed concerns that the province’s phone system could get overloaded and crash – a problem that officials acknowledge has happened elsewhere and could be repeated in B.C.
“We know that these are things that happen. Every jurisdiction we’ve talked to has experienced these issues in the early days of opening up to the broad public,” said Ballem. “If a call centre goes down, we will put it right back up on its feet as quickly as possibly.”
In Alberta, the phone booking system was quickly overloaded on the first day, when tens of thousands of people called in who weren’t eligible to be vaccinated. Ballem urged people not to do the same in B.C.
“It’s important not to phone in and try to convince people that you’re only 44 but you need a vaccine, because what that’s going to do is interfere with getting our most frail, oldest age group – our seniors – vaccinated,” Ballem added.
Who comes next?
Health officials say Phase 3 of mass vaccination, which includes people aged 79 to 60 years and people aged 16 and older who are extremely clinically vulnerable, will begin in mid-April.
During that phase, British Columbians will register and book their appointments for both first and second doses through an online registration platform.
People born between 1942 and 1946 (aged 79 and 75) and Indigenous people born between the years 1956 and 1960 (aged 64 to 60) will be able to register for an appointment online or by phone by March 31.
Initial estimates from the province suggested everyone aged 18 and older in B.C. would be fully vaccinated by the end of September. However, health officials said that timeline is shifting, given the acquisition of a third vaccine and a just-extended timeframe between when the first and second dose are given.