B.C. allocating initial doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to food processing, ag workers

Province will allow some essential workers to get vaccinated ahead of their age group as mass vaccinations roll out

The initial doses of the AstraZeneca plc vaccine to arrive in B.C. appear as if they’ll be prioritized for those working at food processing plants and certain agricultural businesses, as well as workers staying at large industrial camps.

The province confirmed Monday the exact specifics surrounding who qualifies for the just-approved vaccine after promising weeks ago doses were being earmarked for first responders and essential workers.

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B.C.’s current vaccine deployment strategy is based on age groups, starting with those 90 years old and above.

But B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said certain essential workers may have the option of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine ahead of those in their age group rather than waiting for either the Pfizer Inc. or Moderna Inc. vaccines.

Monday’s joint statement from the Ministry of Health and the Office of the Provincial Health Officer highlighted four categories of workplaces considered to be at highest risk of COVID-19:
· Food processing plants, including poultry, fish and fruit processing;

· Agricultural businesses that rely on workers living together. For example, those that bring in temporary foreign workers seasonally to help with harvests;

· Large industrial camps; and

· Other large operations in which workers live together and where quarantine is difficult.

“The initial shipment of AZ/SII [AstraZeneca/Serum Institute of India] vaccine will be used to protect workers in industries where full use of personal protective equipment and barriers can be challenging, outbreaks and clusters have occurred or are ongoing, and workers must live or work in congregate settings. These efforts will complement B.C.'s foundational age-based immunization plan,” the joint statement said.

"By deploying AZ/SII in this way, B.C. will be able to manage outbreaks, prevent them before they occur and deploy vaccines strategically to reduce COVID-19 transmission in B.C.”

So far, 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India have been delivered to Canada.

Prior to Monday’s broader rollout of vaccinations, the province had been prioritizing residents and staff at long-term care facilities, essential visitors to those facilities, residents and staff and assisted living residences, higher-risk hospital staff and paramedics, as well as those living in remote or isolated First Nations communities.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were the first to be deployed in B.C. prior to the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is far easier to transport owing to the fact it does not need to be kept at the same ultra-cold temperatures as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

“The B.C. Immunization Committee is reviewing the latest data and recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to determine additional workplaces that will be prioritized for immunization using the AZ/SII vaccine. The updated plan for additional shipments of AZ/SII vaccine will be released in the coming days," the province’s joint statement said.

torton@biv.com

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