B.C. COVID-19 immunizations still on track for end of March: top doctor

VICTORIA — Production delays for thePfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are a temporary setback that will slow down the delivery of first doses in B.C. over the next few weeks, the province's top doctor said.

But B.C. is still on track to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents by the end of March, Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a news briefing on Monday.

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A shortfall of about 60,000 doses of vaccine should be made up by March, she said, adding the province expects to "dramatically" expand access to the vaccine to people across the province starting in April.

"It is a bit of a setback, but it is only a delay," she said.

"The supply comes back up again very quickly. Next week is where we will be most affected."

More than 87,000 people in B.C. have received their initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine, said Henry, with the first people to receive the shot set to get their second doses starting Tuesday.

B.C. has recorded 1,330 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, including a high of 584 on Saturday.

The death toll from the illness rose to 1,078 as 31 more people died in the same three-day period.

Active infections dipped to 4,326, including 343 people who are hospitalized.

The 301 new cases reported on Monday is the lowest single-day increase in more than two months, although Henry said the risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 is still high across the province.

The Interior and Northern health regions are seeing increased transmission in more communities, she noted.

"It is a challenge again about making sure that we keep our gatherings small. It's the same things that are leading to transmission events that we saw in the Lower Mainland a few months ago," she said, referring to social gatherings leading to cases that drove B.C.'s second wave in the fall.

About 80 per cent of long-term care residents in the hard-hit Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine, said Henry, with more being delivered across the province.

It's been more challenging to get vaccine to facilities in the Northern, Interior and Island health regions, where communities more spread out, she said.

"The target is to complete all care homes by the end of this week, next week, depending on when vaccine arrives this week."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021.

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