Today, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed questions regarding Canada's recently approved COVID-19 vaccines.
Health Canada approved a second COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, paving the way for the shots from U.S. biotech firm Moderna to start arriving in the country.
Between the early doses already in the country, and the shipments now scheduled, Canada should have at least 1.2 million doses from Pfizer and Moderna delivered by Jan. 31, Prime Minister Trudeau said in a conference.
At some time next year, enough doses will arrive from the two companies to vaccinate 30 million people, or almost the entire adult population in Canada.
But before that time comes, specific groups will be immunized first.
The first limited round of vaccinations began in December 2020, with health care workers who work in long-term care homes and on the frontlines of COVID-19 response in acute care among the first to receive the vaccine.
Vaccines will continue arriving each week in B.C. in increasing quantities, with targeted deployment for people in additional priority groups. Expected timelines will depend on vaccine approval and availability.
But many people are wondering what groups are considered priorities and if those groups may include them.
Priority groups for vaccine
First priority groups
- Long-term care and assisted living facility residents and staff
- Health care facility staff for COVID-19 patients in settings like Intensive Care Units, COVID-19 wards and emergency departments
- Indigenous people living in rural or remote communities
- High risk people living in group settings like shelters
- People over 80 years old
Second priority groups
In spring 2021 as more vaccine becomes available, a second phase of vaccination will begin for:
- Older people under age 80 in descending five-year-age groups, with a focus on the oldest people first
- Key frontline workers including:
- All other healthcare workers
- Fire and first responders
- People working in grocery stores
- People working in K to 12 education settings and child care providers
- People working in transportation
- People working in manufacturing and production facilities
"Age is the most important factor."
In today's COVID-19 briefing, Henry underscored that health officials are focusing on priority groups with the limited amount of vaccine the province expects to have in January. However, after that time, they will look into expanding these groups.
"And we know the people who are most at risk, are people by age and underlying conditions, and when we looked at all of the data in Canada and other countries are doing the same--when we look at people who have heart disease for example or have kidney issues or have cancer," she explained.
"And we try and say who is most at risk: Age is the most important factor."
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends five years increments, as the vaccine becomes available. And within those age groups, people who have underlying conditions will hopefully be prioritized within those age groups, Henry added.
"But there are many other groups in our community--other health care workers, other than the ones that have been identified in the first one. There are myriad other groups from dentists, physiotherapists and family physicians and others as well as our essential workers from police and fire services and people who work in our food processing plants.
"It will become clear, as we have a better understanding of what vaccines are available when. Right now, we have a limited amount of vaccine and we're focusing on those we can protect who are most at risk.
"But absolutely, we'll be looking at how to do that in the future but I will say it is not likely to be until the end of March, April, when it's going to be more widely available for everybody."
Even though some people will be able to receive a COVID-19 vaccine soon, it is still very important to follow public health orders, wash your hands, physical distance, wear a mask and stay home when sick. These layers of protection are still essential for all people in B.C.
--With a file from the Canadian Press.