As B.C. public health officials subtract another year of age each day to ramp up COVID-19 mass vaccination, the groups admitted to the program get larger quickly.
As of Saturday, age 79 and up were eligible to call one of five regional health authority call centres, adding 30,630 people to the vaccination group. As of Monday, vaccination appointments open to B.C. residents age 78 and up, meaning another 34,254 are eligible to call for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment as of March 22.
Age 77 bookings open Tuesday, a group estimated to be 36,816. Age 76 on Thursday adds 38,117 and the age 75 group, opening Saturday March 27, represents 41,739. That’s a total of more than 181,000 people eligible this week, and the biggest groups, the back end of the post-war baby boom population age 60 and up, are still to come.
The decision to open an age group each day is to smooth the flow of phone calls to centres that were briefly overwhelmed as community vaccinations opened for age 90 and up in early March. Fraser Health, with the largest population and highest coronavirus transmission rate, has the only working online booking system for appointments, but that changes in early April to prepare for the peak of B.C.’s largest mass vaccination.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and the vaccination team have targeted April 6 to begin taking online registration in Northern Health, Interior Health, Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, in addition to the call centres. They expect to book more than 420,000 appointments for the age-based program by April 18.
The parallel program to target supplies of the more portable AstraZeneca vaccine to priority work groups is also ramping up quickly. Fraser Health received 22,500 doses to immunize people in 71 food processing plants, 48 farm and greenhouse operations and any industrial sites with outbreaks.
Northern Health’s 15,000 doses are mainly for five industrial projects using camps: Coastal GasLink, LNG Canada, B.C. Hydro’s Site C, the Trans Mountain twinning project and Rio Tinto Alcan’s Kemano T2 tunnel project.
Interior Health gets 6,500 doses for people in three industrial camps, 34 food processing sites and six farms or nurseries, while Island Health is assigned 1,000 doses for four large food production facilities.
Vancouver Coastal has 16,000 doses for 53 food processing facilities, six industrial sites with a history of COVID-19 clusters, five group staff housing sites at Whistler, and thousands of temporary foreign workers who arrive and go into isolation at hotels in Richmond.