As B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout moves forward ahead of schedule, front-line workers will be eligible to receive their shots, as the Province also adjusts its age-based schedule.
The B.C. Government said this will include more than 300,000 workers, such as first responders, grocery store employees, teachers and child care workers.
“We know how challenging this pandemic has been on our front-line workers,” said Premier John Horgan. “Many of these people have come to work throughout this pandemic, continuing to teach and care for our children, stock the shelves of our local grocery store and keep our communities safe. By immunizing these front-line workers, we are making workplaces and communities throughout our province safer.”
Starting in April, the Province said priority groups in select workplaces will begin to receive the first dose of the AstraZeneca/SII COVISHIELD vaccine. Those groups include:
- 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
The province said the priority groups have been as workplaces where the following criteria are met:
- the use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging
- outbreaks and clusters have occurred or are ongoing
- workers must live or work in congregate settings
- maintaining the workforce for a critical service is necessary
“Our age-based rollout is ahead of schedule and with the AstraZeneca/SII supply arriving, we can protect people working in specific, front-line industries,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Following the latest science and data to identify high-risk industries or critical services will allow us to protect even more people from COVID-19, which in turn, gives our entire communities and our province greater protection from the virus.”
The settings the B.C. Government has chosen to be prioritized for the AstraZeneca vaccine are in addition to workplaces previously identified by public health where shots are being used to help with outbreak response.
B.C.’s first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine is being deployed to workplaces with the highest rates of transmission, including:
- food processing plants, including poultry, fruit and fish processing
- agricultural operations with congregate worker accommodations, including farms, nurseries and greenhouses
- large industrial camps with congregate accommodations for workers
“The additional supply of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine allows us to strategically target immunizations to maximize the protection of our province,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “With each person who receives any of our three safe and effective vaccines, we are all that much safer. This targeted outreach builds on the momentum we now have with our age-based program to protect those who have been at work every day, without break and without question, for the past year.”
The Province said it expects 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May.
A combination of community pharmacists, existing immunization clinics and mobile clinics will be used to administer shots to front-line workers.
Booking arrangements will be made for front-line workers in the coming weeks and will be communicated to each sector. Those in front-line positions should not call into regional call centres for the time being.
“We want to thank everyone in B.C. for doing their part as we rolled out our call centre program to support the largest immunization program in this province’s history,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead, B.C.’s immunization plan rollout. “We have made significant progress after some initial challenges and we can proudly say that we are on track to have everyone immunized by this summer.”
On top of that, the Province’s age-based rollout plan using the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine is also moving ahead of schedule.
Those over 80 and Indigenous seniors 65 and older will be able to book their appointments starting at noon on Friday. The revised age-based schedule will continue as follows:
- age 79 and Indigenous peoples 55 and older – Saturday, March 20 at noon
- age 78 – Monday, March 22 at noon
- age 77 – Tuesday, March 23 at noon
- age 76 – Thursday, March 25 at noon
- age 75 – Saturday, March 27 at noon
A provincial booking system will be implemented starting on April 6th, both online and over the phone, for people between the ages of 65 and 69.
The accelerated timeline has allowed B.C. to adjust its timeline for Phase 3 and 4 of its COVID-19 Immunization Plan.
If the schedule continues as it has, the Provincial Government said everyone who is eligible for vaccines will be able to receive their first dose by the beginning of July.
More: BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan: AstraZeneca/Covi-Shield Program (B.C. Government)