B.C. health officials prepare to begin COVID-19 vaccinations as early as January

CBC

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says British Columbians could begin receiving a vaccine for COVID-19 as early as January 2021.

“There’s a light in our future on the horizon, as we hear more and more positive news about vaccines, as we know, though, this will be a large, complex undertaking,” she said on Wednesday as part of her daily briefing with Health Minister Adrian Dix.

The duo announced the formation of a provincial vaccination team, which be headed by Dr. Ross Brown, who is the vice-president of pandemic response for Vancouver Coastal Health and has an extensive background as a military doctor.

Henry said people on the team, including provincial officials and experts from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, have been working with the federal government to create a plan to supply a vaccine to B.C. residents.

“To understand the requirements to safely get the right vaccine and to the right people, as quickly as possible in the most efficient way,” she said.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix in a hallway of the B.C. legislature on their way to a COVID-19 briefing in November. 2020. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

Ottawa has pre-ordered more than 350 million doses from seven companies to guard against the possibility that some of the vaccines in development prove ineffective.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that Canada would be able to vaccinate people here in the “coming months,” but did not commit to a firm timeline for the rollout.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to reporters outside his home in Ottawa on Tuesday 1:59

He reiterated that the federal government is committing to providing a safe and effective vaccine to Canadians.

Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech both announced in November that their vaccine candidates against the novel coronavirus have shown promising results so far in Phase 3 clinical trials.

AstraZeneca said late-stage trials showed that its COVID-19 vaccine with Oxford University was up to 90 per cent effective in preventing disease. The vaccine is one of several that Canada has preordered.

While the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored between 2 C and 8 C, the Pfizer and Moderna products must be stored at freezer temperatures. In Pfizer’s case, it must be kept at the ultra-cold temperature of around –70 C.

The province is now working on the logistics of distributing the first round of vaccines, Henry said Wednesday, considering there won’t be enough for the whole population in the early days or months of the jab being available.  

People working in long-term care and front-line medical workers would be at the top of the priority list for getting the vaccine first, she said.

“It’s always a challenge when we’re reliant on offshore manufacturing and there’s always things that can go wrong,” said Henry. “We want to be ready as soon as a vaccine is ready, to get it to the right people at the right time safely, and to be able to monitor safety.”.

‘Sparing no effort’

Dix called the immunization for COVID-19 in B.C. the province’s “most significant immunization program” in its history and that officials would ensure it was successful.

“We are sparing no effort to ensure that that goes well,” he said.

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