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B.C. health-care workers to get first doses of COVID-19 vaccine next week

Last Updated Dec 9, 2020 at 6:30 pm PST


B.C. will start getting the first round of COVID-19 vaccine next week

The first doses will be going to health-care workers and then wider distribution will follow

The province reported 16 more COVID-19 deaths, 619 cases

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — British Columbians are about to start getting a COVID-19 vaccine, with the first doses making their way to health-care workers in the Lower Mainland by next week.

The process to develop a vaccine can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years, but nearly 4,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will be in the province in a matter of days. One location in both the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal regions will be the first to receive the vaccine.

“I know many people are starting to wonder about ‘When will I get vaccine?” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “But I do have to warn you, it’s going to be a bit of a road yet.”

The province is expecting to immunize close to 400,000 British Columbians by March, but says it must focus on getting the first round of doses to those needing protection the most. This includes frontline workers in long-term care centres and COVID-19 units in hospitals, as well as those living in long-term care.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine ‘light at end of tunnel’ for B.C., says premier

Next in line will be seniors in the community over the age of 80 and vulnerable populations — for instance, elderly people living on the Downtown Eastside and First Nations communities.

“By late March, April, our expectation is, we will have enough vaccine, and likely more different vaccines to expand to include all other frontline workers,” Henry says, “including other health care workers, police, fire, first responders, people who work in the important essential services, like grocery stores, manufacturing production facilities,s transportation, teachers, and others in our system.”

The first vaccines will be given in two doses, 21 days apart. Henry said data shows a good level of protection after the first 14 days, and the Pfizer vaccine is about 95 per cent effective against the virus.

“This is a breakthrough in terms of the benefits that a vaccine can have,” Henry said.

Health measure will need to continue

After that and as more vaccines become available, wider distribution will take place and more people will start getting immunized.

Health Canada approved Pfizer earlier in the day, and Henry expects Moderna is close behind, which is easier to transport.

RELATED: Moderna COVID vaccine best for Nunavut because of storage, shipping: top doctor

However, there are some limitations to both vaccines. They can’t be given to people who are under the age of 16, but Henry noted children are less likely to get the virus or have serious side effects.

While it is positive news, it doesn’t mean British Columbians can ease up on COVID-19 measures for some time. Handwashing,  physically distancing, and masks will still be necessary until the majority of people are immunized.

“I asked you to please be patient and understanding, and please continue to use those layers of protection that keep us all safe until it is your turn,” Henry said.

She noted the province isn’t through this storm yet, and there could be setbacks and the province will need to readjust its plan.

Ross Brown, vice president for the pandemic response said, “We consider this a no-fail mission, and we’re going to get it done.”

16 more COVID-19 deaths, new infections levelling off

The vaccine announcement comes as Henry reported that another 16 people have died from the virus, bringing the province’s total to 559.

The number of new virus infections has started to level off, but another 619 cases were announced.

Hospitalizations as a result of COVID-19 remain high, only going down slightly to 338 patients. Seventy-five of them are in critical care.

One more outbreak was declared at Burnaby’s Courtyard Terrace, and two others in healthcare have ended. There are 57 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and eight in acute care.