VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As nurses and doctors laud the arrival of Canada’s first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s not clear yet when the first shots will be administered to frontline health-care workers.
BC Nurses’ Union President Christine Sorensen says while there is excitement about the vaccine rollout, a timeline hasn’t been laid out yet, and it’s no time for B.C. to let its guard down.
She says she expects vaccinations to start sometime next week and suggests nurses tasked with caring for the most vulnerable are likely to be given priority.
“I very much support the decision to vaccinate those in long-term care, those at risk of severe disease, and the vulnerable communities in the first place and then those health-care workers [and] nurses who are working with those vulnerable populations,” Sorensen says.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated last week health-care employees will be the first British Columbians to roll up their sleeves, but doses will be limited at first.
The initial shipments of the vaccine won’t be able to cover all of the province’s health-care population, who Sorenson notes are overwhelmed and already struggling.
“Nurses recognize we still have a long road to go. They are severely distressed at this time and working under really difficult conditions in acute care and long-term care,” she says. “We can’t take our foot off the gas. We need to all continue to put everything into keeping each other safe.”
The union says there are no plans to make the vaccine mandatory for frontline health-care workers, but suggests most nurses are prepared to get vaccinated.
“We believe strongly in an educational and encouraging approach to vaccination, and that’s far superior to a mandatory and coercive one,” Sorensen says.
Doctors of BC President Matthew Chow describes the vaccine distribution in Canada as a “momentous occasion,” but notes it is only the beginning of the end.
“You need to be patient. It’s going to take time to roll out all these vaccines. The initial doses of vaccine, the initial type of vaccine, need to be treated very carefully. That’s one of the limitations of this particular vaccine, but other vaccines are on the way that do not have these limitations,” he says.
“It really is a triumph of science as well. Never before have we seen a pathogen studied so intently in such a short period of time and a vaccine derived in this type of fashion.”
B.C.’s first vaccines will go to health-care workers at two locations in the Lower Mainland — one in the Fraser Health region, and one in the Vancouver Coastal Health — sometime this week.