B.C. pushes vaccine registration; million more sign-ups needed, says medical expert

The B.C. government is trying to hammer home the message that more people need to register for a COVID-19 vaccination.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix implored this week: “Register. Register. Register.”

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There’s a reason for that, not visible in the information the B.C. government has been providing publicly.

Of the more than 2.5 million people who have registered for a vaccine, only 260,000 were still waiting for a jab as of May 11, the latest information the province was able to provide in response to a Postmedia request.

B.C. Health Ministry officials say on average another 50,000 people are registering a day (they did not say whether that number is rising or falling). But more than that are being vaccinated each day, about 159,000 from Wednesday to Friday.

While it’s only a snapshot in time, the number of people registered and not vaccinated is not enough to get British Columbia to the number of vaccinations required to significantly ease restrictions, says epidemiologist Sarah Otto.

More than a million more British Columbians need to register for a vaccination and receive one in order to get to those safety levels, said Otto, a UBC zoologist who specializes in mathematical modelling.

Otto, who is a member of an independent COVID-19 modelling group in B.C., said the 260,000 people registered but waiting for a jab was a lower number than she expected.

“I think we’re going to turn from people scrambling to find a vaccine to the reverse, and the vaccinators having to scramble to find people,” said Otto. “And I think that is going to happen in the next two weeks.”

According to a recent Angus Reid poll, nine per cent of British Columbians said they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccine and five per cent were not sure. That leaves 86 per cent of people who would get a vaccine, in the range of what is needed to provide community-level protection from COVID-19, according to scientists.

But other recent Canadian surveys have found only two-thirds of Canadians want to get a vaccine. And in the U.S., vaccine rollout has appeared to stall as demand for vaccines has dropped, with about 50 per cent of the population with one jab and another 36 per cent with two doses.

“How is the government going to put vaccines into (British Columbian’s) arms by mid-June, when they don’t know where they are?” said Otto of the more than one million who need to register and have not.

Otto said this type of information — the buffer the province has before it runs out of people signed up for a vaccination — is important for the public to know.

It could provide more incentive to get people registered, she said.

> To register for a vaccination, go online to gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated. Or phone 1-833-838-2323, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.

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