B.C. seniors born in 1931 or earlier will be first up for the COVID-19 community vaccination program, with registration for appointments starting next week, public health officials said Monday.
Anticipating a huge demand from seniors living at home and their relatives for the coronavirus vaccine, the province has arranged a rolling schedule by age for people to contact their regional health authority for appointments. It begins with people aged 90 and up booking appointments starting March 8, with appointments starting March 15. Then 85 and up can call starting March 15, with vaccinations starting March 22. People aged 80 and up or their relatives can call starting March 22, with vaccinations starting March 29.
Phone numbers will be activated starting March 8, officials said at a news conference March 1. Health authority call centre information and a step-by-step process are available on the provincial website at gov.bc.ca/bcseniorsfirst and also on websites for Fraser Health, Interior Health, Northern Health, Island Health and Vancouver Coastal Health. Relatives or friends of elderly people are allowed to call for appointments on their behalf when they are eligible.
The Fraser Health region, with more people and more seniors than the other four B.C. regions, will have online bookings available as well, in an effort to ease a rush of phone calls that provincial call centre staff may be unable to keep up with at first.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said almost complete vaccination of staff and residents in long-term care and assisted living facilities has provided almost blanket protection for frail elderly residents, and immunization is nearing completion for remote Indigenous communities. Indigenous people aged 65 are included in the community vaccination program set for those 80 and up in the general population, due to higher risk that has been shown.
Callers are urged to wait until their age group is eligible for appointments, and have the necessary information ready: First and last name, date of birth, postal code, B.C. personal health number, and contact information (email or mobile phone number of the senior or support person). People will be given a list of clinics close to home.
Officials warn everyone that health authority call centres will never ask for a social insurance number, driver’s licence number or banking and credit card details. If anyone asks for that, hang up immediately and contact your local health authority.
Henry said Health Canada’s approval of a third vaccine from AstraZeneca may allow an earlier vaccination date for people under age 80, assuming the delivery dates for all manufacturers are met. First shipments of that vaccine will be targeted to paramedics and other first responders not yet reached by the first stages of protection for health care workers and seniors.
“This is a vaccine that is fridge-stable, which means we can use it in the community in a much more agile way,” Henry said.
Results from first doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are better than expected, and have allowed the province to extend the time between doses up to four months, Henry said.