Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)

B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Pfizer shipments down until February, to be made up in March

B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization program shifts to second doses this week, as priority health care workers reach the 35-day mark since their first dose and provincial health authorities deal with an expected three-week reduction in shipments of Pfizer vaccine.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry extended the period between first and second doses to 35 days based on encouraging results from first doses, and the need to protect long-term care employees and residents as well as front-line hospital staff. Then last week the federal government announced a reduction in shipments from Pfizer into Canada as it revamps its production in an effort to keep up with global demand.

Henry said Monday the reduced shipments are expected to continue into February, but they will be made up once production resumes. Health authorities are to begin reporting first and second dose deliveries this week.

“Although the supply comes back up again very quickly, next week is where we’ll be most affected,” Henry said in a briefing Jan. 18. “We received those numbers over the weekend and we know that this delay will temporarily slow our delivery into the next phase of at-risk people, particularly into other parts of our hospital system.”

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High-priority groups, including front-line health care workers, senior care home residents and those waiting for a space in long-term care, and 25,000 residents of remote and Indigenous communities, are receiving vaccinations in January and February.

Next in line are community-based seniors aged 80 and up (65 and up for Indigenous seniors), for a total of about 260,000 people. Also in this priority group are people in shelters or correctional facilities and adults in mental health residential care.

With increased volume of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines starting in March, Health Canada is expected to approve other vaccines from AstraZeneca and Janssen soon, allowing a mass vaccination program to begin in descending five-year age groups after people aged 80 and older have been vaccinated.

“Although today we have a slight delay, we are still on track to protect those most vulnerable by the end of March and starting in April to expand dramatically the access to vaccine to people across the province to protect us all,” Henry said.


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