VANCOUVER — British Columbia has hit a one-day record for vaccinations as new preliminary data from residents of long-term care homes and health-care workers shows the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of the virus within two to three weeks.
B.C. used 12,250 vaccine doses on Thursday, bringing the province's total number of vaccinations to 192,942.
The province also reported 508 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, for a total of 75,835, along with six more deaths.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said there have been issues with acquiring vaccines due to production delays, but added that the vaccination program itself is working well.
"Obviously, we would like to have more vaccines. The only issue holding back the immunization campaign ever, at this stage, is supply," he said.
But he cautioned that the number of people who have received a vaccine accounts to only four per cent of B.C.'s population.
"What we've done is a start," Dix said.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said Friday that preliminary data shows a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine reduces the risk of the virus among long-term care residents and health-care workers by 80 per cent within two to three weeks of receiving the shot.
Dr. Reka Gustafson, the deputy provincial health officer, acknowledged the debate surrounding using both doses of a vaccine on Friday.
"What we're trying to do is maximize the protection from the available vaccine to the entire population. The data (is) being looked at very, very carefully," Gustafson said.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said earlier this week that she is confident the gap between doses can be safely extended to up to three months if necessary.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control said in a statement that research led by Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the head of its influenza and emerging respiratory pathogens team, came to the conclusion after analyzing COVID-19 cases in long-term care homes.
Researchers studied cases between December 2020 and February 2021, seeing a drop in cases starting at about 14 days after vaccination as well as a reduction in hospitalizations and deaths.
"These findings, based on surveillance data, are very promising and reinforce the substantial benefit provided by the first dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine in these priority populations," Skowronski said in a statement.
The data also helps researchers and health officials better understand the effectiveness of the vaccines in B.C.'s elderly population, she added.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 19, 2021.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press