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B.C. to use age as determining factor for remaining vaccine rollout

Last Updated Jan 22, 2021 at 7:16 pm PST


Starting in April, mass vaccinations in B.C. will start on people under 80 years of age in five year increments

Mass rollout will begin with oldest and move backwards in five-year increments until people 60 years and older immunized

Dr. Bonnie Henry says age is the single greatest risk factor, which is why the province is using that as its criteria

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The province is putting more of a focus on age when it comes to the next stage of B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

Starting in April, mass vaccinations will start on people under 80 years of age in five-year increments. Vaccines will also be available to those under 69 starting April for those considered at extreme risk of serious illness or death if they catch the virus.

The mass rollout will begin with those oldest and move backwards in five-year increments until people 60 years and older are immunized.

The province notes the greatest risk factor for severe illness and death from COVID-19 is increasing age, adding the risk grows exponentially in people over 70 years of age.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our province, with steady guidance by Dr. Bonnie Henry, has made decisions based on science, data and evidence from health experts,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Friday. “Our plan puts people at the forefront of every decision, and our immunization rollout will guide us through the spring and summer, ensuring that those who are most in need of the vaccine, will receive it as soon as possible.”

Ministry of Health-Covid19 Immunization Plan-Jan 22 21

The province will make vaccination appointments through an online system that will track who has been given what kind of vaccine and to remind people when it’s time for their second dose.

B.C. is currently in the first phase of its immunization rollout, which is focused on protecting residents in long-term care homes who are at risk and the healthcare system. Phase 2 will have a similar focus, expanding on the most at-risk populations.

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All seniors over the age of 80 are among those in the first priority group, which will receive COVID-19 vaccines between February and March.

The B.C. government is stressing that “no one will lose their place in line.” However, with this shift to focusing on age, others who were previously in the second priority group — such as teachers, some first responders, and other front-line workers — have been bumped out to later dates.

By September, the province expects to have everyone, except for those under 18, who want the shot to be immunized. That’s 4.3 million British Columbians.

To date, more than 100,000 people have been immunized against COVID-19.

As additional vaccines are approved and made available, the province says more people “who are front-line essential workers” or people who work in certain industries and workplaces may also start receiving shots in the later days. Dr. Penny Ballem says this is yet to be determined and will depend on the flow of vaccine shipments B.C. received.

The approximate timeline depends on vaccine shipments and the plan could change, as it already has after shipments from Pfizer were deferred.

“Well, it needs to be very, very clear that this plan depends on a consistent supply of vaccine. That vaccine has been disrupted,” Premier John Horgan said. “Next week and the week after will be a challenge for us, based on what we had anticipated to receive from the federal government and what they’re able to provide us.”

He stressed blaming anyone for the delay isn’t helpful, and when more vaccine arrives, the plan will be amended.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Henry explained the goal is still to reach community immunity, which she says can happen if the majority of people in B.C. choose to be immunized against the vaccine.

“I would love it to be happening instantaneously,” she said. “But the reality is that the vaccines that are available around the world are in limited supply, and we are going to be getting the vaccine and of back end loaded way over the next few months, which means we all have to remain vigilant, we need to keep this bargain that we’ve made with each other, the social contract that we have to keep ourselves, our communities, protected through this next few months.”