The B.C. government has changed its approach to mass COVID-19 vaccinations beginning in April, using age as the main factor to determine who gets vaccinated first.
Friday morning, the B.C. government provided an approximate outline of when British Columbians will be able to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. It will be B.C.’s largest immunization plan in the province’s history, which will see about 4.3 million people vaccinated over the next eight months.
While Dr. Bonnie Henry said last month that frontline workers would be given priority immunizations beginning around Easter, the province has since changed their strategy, focusing primarily on older British Columbians first.
Dr. Henry said this is due to a review of the science, ethics and operational considerations of the rollout.
Roughly 150,000 high-priority recipients in “Phase 1” will receive the vaccine through February, of which more than 100,000 have already had their first dose, and another 372,000 “Phase 2” people in other vulnerable populations, including those over 80, will be vaccinated through March.
Following these first two phases, the main factor for when an individual can get a vaccination will be age. Dr. Henry said that has been the most determinate factor when it comes to severe injury or death from COVID-19.
See below for a detailed breakdown of the four phases of B.C.’s vaccination plan.
The province plans to set up 172 vaccination clinics across B.C. in March, along with mobile sites for those who are unable to leave their homes.
In March, the government will begin pre-registering people for appointments, through phone calls, emails and text messaging.
Beginning in April, those between the ages of 75 and 79 will be eligible for vaccines, followed by subsequent five-year cohorts. According to this plan, those between 60 and 64 should receive their second dose of the vaccine by July, while the youngest cohort, 18-24, should expect to receive their second dose by September.
Dr. Henry said they currently don’t have plans to vaccinate those under 18.
Additionally, the province plans to vaccinate about 180,000 “clinically extremely vulnerable” individuals of any age beginning in April. See below for a full list of those considered extremely vulnerable.
The province will begin reaching out to those over the age of 80 living in the community in late February to set up immunization appointments. Pre-registration for the bulk of the population will begin in mid-March, which will allow people to book their vaccination appointments two to four weeks out.
Vaccination clinics will be set up in 172 communities across the province, in places like community halls, arenas, stadiums and gymnasiums. Mobile vaccination clinics, retrofitting vehicles like transit buses, will be used to access more rural communities, and people who are unable to leave their homes.
The timeline of the vaccination plan is flexible and subject to change over the next several months. The plan only takes into account the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which have been approved by Health Canada, but Dr. Henry expects the AstraZeneca vaccine to be approved in the coming weeks, which could result in more vaccine doses being available.
Premier John Horgan, along with Dr. Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Penny Ballem, are presenting the vaccination plan in an online press conference Friday morning.