1.1 million people now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in B.C.

About 1.1 million people in the province — 24 per cent of those eligible — are fully vaccinated, B.C.’s provincial health officer said Tuesday as she reported only 56 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, including three in Island Health.

So far, 4.5 million vaccinations have been delivered, of which 1.1 million were second doses, said Dr. Bonnie Henry, as she delivered her weekly COVID-19 update with B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix from Prince George.

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Seventy-six per cent of those age 12 and up have had a first dose. The province’s goal is to reach more than 80 per cent with first doses by mid-July.

“We are in a pretty critical time between now to the end of July, when we are getting more and more people fully protected, and we need to keep going on those first doses, too,” said Henry.

A week into the second step of B.C.’s reopening plan, Henry said she is seeing a sustained drop in hospitalizations, new cases and clusters in communities across the province.

“And now, over a million people are fully immunized,” she said. “This gives us a strong foundation … a summer of hope, of healing, [where] COVID-19 will be in the background, instead of front and centre in our lives.”

Henry cautioned, however, that the virus hasn’t gone away. It’s still spreading and making people ill in Canada and around the world.

Once someone is fully vaccinated, their risk of contracting COVID-19 drops 80 per cent, but “it’s not zero,” said Henry.

While Pfizer was the dominant vaccine in the beginning of the rollout, the province now has a large supply of Moderna for the next few weeks. Henry said health officials will do their best to ensure both are available at vaccination clinics, but “sometimes that simply isn’t possible.”

Anyone who is offered a different mRNA vaccine than the one they received for their first shot can be assured both are highly safe and effective, she said.

“Really, these are the same vaccines,” Henry said.

“It’s just packaged slightly ­differently, in a slightly different package, and we are confident in the safety and the efficacy of them being used interchangeably.”

Despite fewer doses of Pfizer expected in the weeks leading up to mid-July, with 892,000 doses of Moderna arriving, there will be a net increase in vaccines coming into B.C., said Henry.

The province is set to receive another 10,000 doses of AstraZeneca, but Dix said delivery of doses of AstraZeneca has dropped to just under 4,000 a day in pharmacies from 6,000 since the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said an mRNA vaccine was preferred after a first dose of AstraZeneca for greater immunity. The advice was also based on the slight risk of vaccine-induced blood clots related to AstraZeneca.

Henry is set to visit other regions of the province where there have been problems reaching everyone who wants to be vaccinated, or reaching those who are vaccine-hesitant and in need of more information. The reasons vary by community, she said.

“We are not seeing widespread anti-­vaccine sentiment,” said Henry. “What we are seeing are some areas where people have questions, some areas where there may not be as equal access.”

Island Health is offering two pop-up vaccination ­clinics this week; one opened at Woodgrove Centre in Nanaimo on Tuesday, another opens today in Lake Cowichan at Cowichan Lake Sports Arena.

On Tuesday, 1,150 people had active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., including 111 in hospital, of whom 41 are in intensive care.

Two active outbreaks were in long-term care and assisted living and one outbreak in acute care.

No new deaths were announced, leaving the total number of COVID-19-related deaths in B.C. at 1,743.

B.C. has extended its provincial state of emergency amid the pandemic to July 6.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

> Vaccination registration: getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca or phone 1-833-838-2323

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