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Almost all long-term care home residents, staff in Vancouver Coastal vaccinated against COVID-19

Last Updated Jan 14, 2021 at 8:28 am PDT

FILE - A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Long-term care home staff, residents in Vancouver Coastal Health will have had their first COVID-19 shots in a few days

VCH is looking at making changes when it comes to what qualifies as an outbreak at a long-term care home

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A sigh of relief for those with a loved one in a long-term care home in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.

By the end of this week, all residents and staff members in the health authority will have been vaccinated against COVID-19. They’re among the more than 63,000 people who have been immunized since mid-December when the province began vaccinating people.

“In Vancouver Coastal, we’ve vaccinated all of our residents in long-term care in the urban area and this week we have gone up the coast and are vaccinating those in our more rural settings. By the end of the week, we would have finished all of our long-term care, all the residents, and the majority of the staff,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, chair at VCH, during a press conference on Thursday, which also saw her named the executive lead for the province’s immunization program.

With almost all long-term care home residents and staff members having received their first dose against the virus, Ballem says VCH is looking at making changes when it comes to what qualifies as an outbreak at a long-term care home.

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“Having vaccinated them is our first priority starting in December, when the vaccine first arrived, and taking that decision point about when we can start to just ease back a little bit, knowing that it will be safe to do that,” said Ballem.

Currently, an outbreak is declared when just one staff member or resident tests positive for COVID-19.

“At this point, we’re looking at whether or not we can raise the threshold a little bit,” added Ballem. “Because when you declare an outbreak, we mobilize significant numbers of staff to move in and do what’s necessary.”

Most deaths from COVID-19 have occurred in long-term care homes, with Little Mountain in East Vancouver seeing the worst outbreak in B.C., claiming 41 lives so far.

Meantime, the province is gearing up for an expansion of its immunization program.

Currently, about 25,000 people are being vaccinated a week across the province. By February, the province plans to doll out about 68,000 doses a week and by April, that number is set to go up to more than 200,000 a week. Things really ramp up from July to September, when the province hopes to vaccine about 460,000 people a week.

But, the numbers can change as they’re based on the number of doses the province expects to receive during the next several months.

On Thursday, the province announced 518 new cases of the virus as well as 12 more deaths.