Province will extend second COVID-19 vaccine doses to four months

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B.C. plans to vaccinate 400,000 residents by early April, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. She said age will be the foundation for the province’s immunization program.

“The single most important risk factor for becoming seriously ill or dying from COVID19 is age,” she said.  Second doses can be extended as long as four months, she added.

“That means we can move everybody up the list and more people will be protected sooner.”

Delaying second doses will mean around 70,000 people can get their first shot earlier, according to Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of B.C.’s immunization rollout team.

The province expects to receive about 60,000 doses this month of the newly-approved AstraZeneca vaccine, which can be stored at fridge temperature and will provide healthcare providers with more flexibility, Henry said. The first shipment is expected sometime next week.

“We will start to target essential workers, particularly our first responders and our key essential workers who are not able to work from home,” she said, giving poultry and mail distribution centre workers as examples.

Starting in mid-March, seniors over 80 and Indigenous people over 65 will begin receiving their first doses, according to Ballem. Call centres in every health authority will begin booking appointments for seniors over 90 and Indigenous seniors starting March 8.

The province plans to begin phase 3 of its vaccination program in mid-April, when seniors over 75 and Indigenous people over 60 will be eligible. By this point the province expects mass immunization clinics will be open and mobile clinics will be visiting rural communities and people with mobility issues.

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