British Columbia is considering running COVID-19 immunization clinics in public schools before the end of the school year now that Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for those aged 12 to 17 years old.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday the province is looking at plans to immunize young people with their first dose by the end of June, and school-based clinics are a tried-and-tested option.
"We have a lot of experience in public health at supporting immunization in schools," she said during a news conference. "It's a very efficient way of doing it."
But Henry said plans are still in the early stages and clinics in communities are also an option.
"We've been ruminating how best to do this for the last week," she said. "I do expect we'll be able to get younger people immunized prior to next year's school season, fully immunized with two doses."
Henry said an expected increase in vaccine supplies to B.C. means there will be enough doses for youth and adults.
B.C. is expected to receive 1.1 million Pfizer doses this month along with more shipments of the Moderna vaccine.
Henry said earlier this week that the increased vaccines has the province looking at reducing the 16-week interval period between first and second doses.
"The good news is we have a lot of vaccine coming if all goes as planned in the next few months," she said on Wednesday. "Between May and June we will have quite a lot of vaccine, so we should be able to fit this into our program."
Henry said there are about 300,000 students in the 12-to-17-year age group.
The province launched a program earlier this week to ramp up efforts to register the millions who are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said more than two million people have already registered.
More than 1.9 million doses of vaccine have been administered so far, and of those, 93,656 are second shots.
Henry said she understands some people have concerns about vaccine risks, especially for those who are pregnant and youth, but all Health Canada-approved vaccines are safe.
The province made pregnant people a priority for vaccination on Tuesday because of the added health risks if they are infected with COVID-19.
B.C. reported 572 COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the first time case counts have been below 600 since March, and there have been no new deaths.
However, the number of people in hospital remains high at 481, with 161 of those people in intensive care.
Travel and other restrictions in the province will remain in place until at least May 25, the day after the Victoria Day long weekend.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.