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Facing delays in supply, B.C. to lay out COVID-19 immunization strategy for coming weeks

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

B.C. set to outline latest COVID-19 immunization distribution plan amid delay in vaccine delivery

Expert says triaging is important as Pfizer delays some shipments of COVID-19 vaccines

Infectious diseases expert says the production delays will hopefully be measured in weeks, not months

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – We are about to find out how B.C. plans to deal with the delay of possibly tens of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer.

Premier John Horgan will be joining Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in laying out B.C.’s latest immunization strategy later this morning.

They are expected to address the delay of nearly 31,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot that were expected to arrive in the province by Jan. 29 but could be curtailed due to production issues.

Earlier this week, Dix said that B.C. remains committed to ensuring everyone who received their first shot gets their second dose within 35 days, but infectious diseases expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch expects there will be significant triage efforts in the coming weeks.

“At the end of the day, when you have a limited vaccine supply you have to redirect supply to the highest of high need,” he tells NEWS 1130.

“That might be different in different parts of the country. I’m in Ontario where the obvious priority is those who reside in long term care. In Ontario, that accounts for about 70 to 80 per cent of the deaths we are seeing in the province, and that is where we are triaging our vaccines and focusing our efforts,” he adds.

Bogoch — who is based out of Toronto General Hospital — says there are many risk factors for those who might have a severe outcome from a COVID-19 infection.

“We talk about different medical conditions, we talk about racialized communities, we talk about low-income communities … the list goes on and on and they are real, but the risk factor that blows everything else out of the water is age,” he says. “There certainly are neighbourhoods that are more heavily impacted by this infection, and ensuring there is equitable distribution of these vaccines to those neighbourhoods while still focusing on age would be a valuable strategy.”

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However, Bogoch points out the production delays will hopefully be measured in weeks, not months.

“It sounds like Pfizer will still make good on their quarterly supply. The problem is we might get that supply delivered at the tail-end of the quarter rather than distributed evenly throughout the weeks ahead.”

He admits that may present some challenges.

“It means our medium and long-term forecasts for vaccinating Canadians won’t change, but over the short term, you’d certainly love to expand these programs to everybody because there are so many who would benefit from this vaccine. Sadly, because of this you just have to triage to the highest of high risk.”

Nearly 105,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C. so far, including more than 1,600 second doses.