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B.C.'s first COVID-19 vaccines will be administered today

Illustration of vaccine against coronavirus COVID-19. Photo by Robin Utrecht/ABACAPRESS.COM

B.C. will begin its COVID-19 vaccine rollout on Tuesday

Health-care workers will be the first people to be immunized against COVID-19 in B.C. Tuesday

B.C.'s top doctor urging people to continue physical distancing ahead of first COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in B.C. are ready to go and will start to be administered today.

The first shots will be given in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health regions.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the vaccine’s arrival is “momentous” news, but she warns this doesn’t mean it’s safe to break physical distancing restrictions.

“It is what’s going to make the difference and I made the analogy last week that we’re in the final leg of this now, but there is still a ways to go and it’s going to be hard, and it’s especially going to be hard these next few weeks because we have potential,” she said Monday.

Henry says lives will be saved with every single dose of this first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, starting today in B.C., but it’s not enough yet to stop transmission of COVID-19 in the community.

“We pick up the risk from where we’ve been and we take it to where we go,” she said. “If we’re around people who are vulnerable and more likely to end up in hospital to get sick, then we’re putting them at risk, so we need to step back, stay with our household, make sure we’re not the ones bringing this into our community or to people that we care the most about.”

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The first people to receive the vaccines on Tuesday will be health-care workers in the two aforementioned health authorities. The province expects vaccines to be available in all of B.C.’s health regions as of next week.

On Monday, the province reported 2,146 new cases of the virus for for the period spanning Friday to Monday. Forty-nine more people died.

There are now more than 10,000 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with a record 359 people in hospital — 87 of those patients in critical care.

The vaccines touched down in Canada on Sunday, with B.C.’s doses arriving in the province later that night. The Pfizer drug — the first to be approved in Canada — requires delicate conditions, including extreme cold storage and transport temperatures, meaning its movement is restricted.

Related video: B.C. will administer first COVID-19 vaccines Tuesday

The first of the shots were given in Ontario and Quebec on Monday.

“I think I felt this emotion when I heard the flight was on our way. But yeah, this is huge. I didn’t see the person in Quebec, but I did see some footage of the care worker in Ontario and I know my colleagues and I … this is such an important thing. Who would have known, just 11 months ago, that we would have come together globally and, quite frankly, put the money towards a vaccine that is game changing,” Henry said.

Her fear is that people make let their guards down now that the vaccine has arrived.

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

Next in line will be people over the age of 80 in the community and vulnerable populations, such as include elderly people living on the Downtown Eastside and First Nations communities

Henry will be on site when the first vaccine is administered in B.C..

-With files from Liza Yuzda and Kathryn Tindale