Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

B.C.’s health ministry expects to start registering four million people for COVID-19 vaccine in March, beginning with the oldest and reaching everyone 18 and older who wants to be immunized by the end of September.

The largest immunization program in the province’s history will set up clinics in 172 B.C. communities, using school gymnasiums, arenas, community halls, church halls and convention centres, as well as mobile clinics for rural areas. Mobile teams will also be dispatched to people who aren’t able to leave their homes, using transit buses and other self-contained vehicles.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the current phase one of vaccinations has reached most long-term care staff and residents as well as front-line acute care staff with a first dose. Decisions on increasing access and mobility in long-term care homes can be considered in March, he said.

Phase two in February and March continues to target the highest-risk populations, seniors aged 80 and up in communities, hospital staff, community physicians and staff in home support and nursing for seniors.

The mass vaccination starts with phase three from April to June, with people registered for vaccination in five-year increments, starting with the group aged 75 to 79. Phase four, from July to September, moves to people younger than 60, moving down to age 18. Approximately 900,000 of B.C.’s population of more than five million are under 18, and won’t be eligible for vaccine under the current plan.

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With the delay in delivery of Pfizer’s vaccine while it expands its production facility in Belgium, deliveries to Canada are interrupted until February. Despite that, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said seniors aged under 80 in communities are likely to be registered and start receiving vaccine by the end of March.

Dr. Penny Ballem, the former deputy health minister appointed to lead the B.C. vaccine rollout, said the program is designed to be flexible, diverting vaccination to emerging situations like infection clusters in communities, work camps, and other group situations that may need earlier protection.

Details of the registration are still to come. Ballem said a phone call centre will be available to assist seniors who don’t have online access to get registered. For those who miss an appointment, they don’t lose their place in line and will receive priority for rescheduling.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

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