Frontline workers in British Columbia, including teachers and grocery store staff, to start receiving vaccines in April

More than 300,000 frontline workers in British Columbia, such as teachers, daycares, grocery store staff and first responders, will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine next month as the province moves forward with his vaccination plan.

The Department of Health said people in priority groups will receive their first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in April. These groups include:

  • Kindergarten to grade 12 educational staff.
  • Childcare staff.
  • Grocery store employees.
  • First responders such as police, firefighters and emergency transport workers.
  • Postal workers.
  • Manufacturing staff.
  • Wholesale and warehousing workers.
  • Regulatory and Quarantine Officers.
  • Correctional facility staff.
  • Cross-border transport staff.
  • Workers living in shared accommodation in places such as ski slopes.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the age-based rollout was ahead of schedule and that the progress, combined with the incoming supply of AstraZeneca vaccines, means the province can move to immunization of people working in specific frontline industries.

The province said it expects to receive approximately 340,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of May and that it plans to use a combination of community pharmacists, existing clinics and mobile clinics at some health sites. work to administer the vaccine to workers.

“We know this has been an extremely difficult time for frontline workers… they have gone to work day in and day out, day in and day out. These are the real heroes we want to immunize right now, ”said Premier John Horgan.

Updated schedule for vaccines based on age

The province also announced more details about the accelerated schedule for people receiving their vaccines based on their age. The new schedule shows people between the ages of 18 and 59 are all eligible by the end of June, an update that more clearly explains how the province plans to meet its goal of first doses for every eligible adult in the province. ‘by July 1st.

The next age cohort on the list, which includes people 79 and older, as well as Indigenous people 55 and older, will be able to call to make an appointment for a vaccine as early as Saturday.

A registered nurse delivers a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to a frontline worker at Vancouver General Hospital on March 4. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

People with underlying health conditions – including organ recipients, those undergoing chemotherapy or those taking immunosuppressants – should be eligible this month or next year, depending on the province.

Concerns about blood clots affecting the lungs or heart have led some countries to suspend the use of certain batches of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but British Columbia’s provincial health officer Dr Bonnie Henry said this week that the conditions can sometimes be associated with the disease itself.

Out of about 17 million doses of the vaccine, blood clots have occurred in 37 cases as of March 15, she said.

Restrictions unlikely to change soon: Henry

Henry recalled Thursday that none of the approved vaccines, while preventing serious illness and death, still fail to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. Those currently vaccinated and those receiving their first injection in the coming weeks should continue to follow public health guidelines, she said.

Watch | Dr Bonnie Henry says vaccines take a long time to work in the community and cases are still high:

Dr Henry: A vaccination is not a free prison release card

The BC provincial health worker said those who get the COVID-19 vaccine should always maintain physical distance and wear masks. 0:59

When asked if British Columbia will ease restrictions as more people get vaccinated, Henry said the change is still not likely for several weeks.

“This is a very tenuous time… we have scolded at a very high level, for us, cases in our community.

“There’s going to be very little change over the next couple of months, but the more people who are immune … [to easing restrictions]. “

Seniors line up for their COVID-19 vaccinations at a screening center in Vancouver on March 15. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

“A huge relief” for the employees

Frontline workers and their employers have been pushing to be higher on the immunization list since the campaign began in December. More recently, they have asked to be next after the seniors.

“I join all of my fellow teachers in expressing immense relief,” said Teri Mooring, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation, in response to Thursday’s change.

The categories of sites most at risk were identified by a working group created by Henry last November. They include places for processing poultry, fruit and fish, as well as farms and large industrial camps where nearby living quarters make isolation and quarantine difficult.

In terms of vaccine reservations, the province will start implementing online reservation from April 6. The health ministry said digital recording will replace the five regional call centers, which will be phased out by April 18.