British Columbians are a step closer to receiving their COVID-19 immunizations, with additional details and timelines released for the largest and most complex immunization plan to ever roll out in B.C.
Premier John Horgan; Adrian Dix, Minister of Health; Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer; and Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead for B.C.’s immunization efforts; announced details of the next phases in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan. The plan will see approximately 7.4 million doses of vaccine administered to every British Columbian who is eligible to receive it between April and the end of September.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all in extremely difficult ways,” Premier Horgan said.
“Together, we have faced this pandemic with strength, courage and compassion, and we are starting to feel optimistic that, one day, COVID-19 will be in our rear view. At every step, our plan puts the health and safety of our most vulnerable people at the centre, and when it’s your turn, I encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine and help us move forward, together, to a healthier province.”
B.C.’s four-phased COVID-19 Immunization Plan is based on scientific evidence, as well as expert advice and guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, B.C.’s Immunization Committee and B.C.’s public health leadership committee.
The plan, which got underway in December 2020, starts by first immunizing those who are most vulnerable to severe illness and death, including long-term care residents and the health-care workers who care for them, remote and at-risk Indigenous communities, and seniors.
“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,” Dix said.
“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.”
With each phase, more people in B.C. will be eligible to be immunized.
Phase 1 has had more than 103,000 people in B.C. receiving their first dose of vaccine and second doses are underway.
Phase 2, starting in late February, expands immunizations to additional vulnerable populations, Indigenous communities and Elders, health-care staff and all seniors over the age of 80. Together, these two phases are focused on people who are most at risk.
As age is the single greatest risk factor for severe illness and death, Phase 3, starting in April, will expand to include people between the ages of 79 to 75 and work backwards in five-year increments to include those age 60 and over.
Also included in this phase are people with certain underlying health conditions that make them clinically extremely vulnerable (see backgrounder for details).
It is important to note that no one will lose their place in line. For example, if an elderly relative is in Phase 2 and cannot be immunized at that time, they can be immunized at any point thereafter.
“This is an extraordinary time with what is now the most significant step on our path to protecting our communities and our health-care system,” Henry said. “For many months, British Columbians have been working hard to keep their friends, family and communities safe, and I want to thank everyone for their continued commitment.”
As additional vaccines are approved and become available, people who are front-line essential workers or work in specific workplaces or industries may also be able to start receiving vaccines later in Phase 3.
Phase 4 is anticipated to begin in July 2021 for the rest of the eligible population, starting with people aged 59 to 55 and working backwards in five-year age groups until everyone over the age of 18 who wants a COVID-19 vaccine receives it.
“We’re working closely with our regional health authorities, our colleagues at the BC Centre for Disease Control over these first several weeks of the plan,” Ballem said. “Moving ahead, we will reach out to other community, faith and business leaders throughout the province to ensure that, by working together, the deployment of these vaccines is done quickly and safely. Every immunization for COVID-19 is one step closer to a healthier future for us all, and that is why so much effort and thought has gone into this plan.”
Approximately four million British Columbians are eligible to receive the COVID-19 immunization. Starting in March 2021, pre-registration for the vaccine will begin to open online and by phone for the general public, starting with those aged 79 to 75.
Those who are considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” will receive their immunization beginning in April. People who are pre-registered will get a reminder to book their appointment as soon as they are eligible.
Additional details on the registration process, registration timing and availability and immunization clinic locations will be available in the coming weeks.