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B.C. frontline workers to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine in April

Last Updated Mar 18, 2021 at 6:42 pm PDT

Summary

First responders, teachers, child care staff among British Columbians who will soon be eligible for a COVID-19 shot

B.C.'s age-based vaccination booking schedule continues to be ahead of its original schedule

A province-wide online booking system and a central phone line will be up and running April 6

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – B.C.’s vaccination rollout is picking up speed, with the province announcing that first responders, teachers, and grocery store workers will be among 300,000 frontline workers given priority for COVID-19 vaccination next month.

Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry says the workers in this group will be receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine. She says they know who these people are via their employers or work association.

“We will be reaching out to you. It will be a combination through the health authorities and it will roll out as the health authorities are able to organize that,” she said.

Child care staff and postal workers are also among those on the list.

Full list of priority groups identified by public health and the COVID-19 Workplace Task Group that will begin to receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca/SII COVISHIELD (AZ/SII) vaccine:

  • first responders (police, firefighters, emergency transport)
  • K-12 educational staff
  • child care staff
  • grocery store workers
  • postal workers
  • bylaw and quarantine officers
  • manufacturing workers
  • wholesale/warehousing employees
  • staff living in congregate housing at places such as ski hills
  • correctional facilities staff
  • cross-border transport staff

 

“This is approximately 320,000 workers identified in these target groups some will already have been started to be immunized in this Part One that we’re doing right now and we’ve been working on this scenario of about an 80 percent uptake,” Henry said.

Workers in hot spot areas like those in Fraser Health will likely be offered the vaccine sooner than those some other regions.

“We know this has been an extremely challenging time for frontline workers,” Premier John Horgan said. “While many of us have been able to work remotely or from home, they have gone to work day after day … They are the true heroes that we want to immunize at this time. In order for us to protect everyone, we have to start with the most vulnerable, we’ve made that abundantly clear.”

Immuno-compromised people — about 150,000 in B.C. — will also start to be contacted now for their vaccination appointments.

 

Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.’s vaccine rollout, admits things have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but says things are looking up.

“By our calculation, just with the Pfizer and Moderna — without considering the impact of AstraZeneca — we will have about a quarter of our population vaccinated [with a first dose] by the end of next month,” she said.

Teachers relieved to be prioritized for vaccination, says BCTF

The president of the BC Teachers’ Federation says educators across the province are “expressing huge relief” that they will be eligible next month.

“The last year has been incredibly stressful on everyone in the school system,” Teri Mooring said in a statement.

“It has taken tens of thousands of education workers working in tough and stressful conditions to keep schools open, students learning, and parents working,” she added.

In her statement, Mooring thanks teachers and support staff “for their commitment and compassion during this difficult year.”

The BC Association of Chiefs of Police is also happy its members will be eligible next month.

“Police operations did not change significantly when the pandemic began and crime in B.C. did not stop. Police officers in the field are unable to eliminate the risk of exposure because they cannot always practice physical distancing due to the nature of their work. We are grateful for the opportunity to protect our officers who will continue to focus on the important task at hand, which is to protect B.C. communities,” said VPD Deputy Chief Constable Howard Chow, president of the BCACP, in a statement.

B.C. vaccination schedule by age continues to be ahead of original schedule

The age cohort call-in schedule has been updated, with British Columbians aged 79 and up allowed to call starting noon on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Those aged 78 and up will be allowed to book starting noon on Monday, March 22. The age of eligibility expands by one year per day until Saturday, March 27, when those aged 75 and up can call in.

Related article: COVID-19 vaccinations in B.C.: What you need to know

The province says the call-in schedule for those aged 70 to 74 will be announced “in the coming days.”

On Thursday, B.C. recorded 622 new cases of COVID-19. That pushes the total to over 90,000.

Eight more people have died of the virus, for a total of 1,419 deaths in B.C.

The province is also confirming 136 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 variants of concern. Of the 1,132 total cases, 1,040 are the B.1.1.7 variant. Of the total cases, 143 are considered active.

How do I book?

Currently, each health authority has a different phone number for booking appointments (See below)

Phone lines will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You are strongly advised not to call ahead of your age group, as you will not be allowed to book yet.

Right now, only people who live in the Fraser Health Authority have the option to book online.

However, Ballem says a province-wide online booking system will be up and running on April 6.

“On April 6, we will do the shift over. We will close down those five call centres … and we will move to one provincial call centre and one very robust online booking platform. The public will then start to be able to access, wherever they are, that online system and/or the call centre,” she said.

Vancouver Coastal Health: 1-877-587-5767
Fraser Health: 1-855-755-2455 or book online
Interior Health: 1-877-740-7747
Island Health: 1-833-348-4787
Northern Health: 1-844-255-7555

If you have health-related questions, you should call 8-1-1.

If you have any questions about non-health related information and services related to COVID-19, you should call 1-888-COVID19 (line open 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

What information do I need when booking my appointment?

When you call, you will be asked for:

  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Postal code
  • Personal Health Number (Note: If you do not have one, you can still receive the vaccine)
  • A contact email address or phone number

You will NOT be asked for your SIN, driver’s licence number, or banking/credit card details.

An agent will arrange and confirm an appointment time and clinic location (see a full list), and a confirmation message will be sent by email or text.

What should I know about my appointment?

You are asked to wear a short-sleeved shirt and a mask to your appointment. If you do not have a mask, one will be given to you. You are also asked to arrive a few minutes before your scheduled start time. Everyone is allowed to bring one person for support, if they wish.

After you check in for your appointment at the clinic and receive your vaccine dose, you will be required to wait in an observation area for 15 minutes.

The province says to expect to be at the clinic for a total of 30 minutes.