Health minister says delay in Moderna vaccine 'disappointing,' premier gets AstraZeneca jab

British Columbia’s health minister says news that Moderna will be delaying shipments of its COVID-19 vaccine is “disappointing.”

“The sooner we get vaccines in people’s arms the better, and inconsistency in delivery is a consistent problem. This is simply a reality and not an issue of blame,” Adrian Dix said in a statement Friday.

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The federal government has announced Canada’s vaccine supply from Moderna will be slashed in half through the rest of April.

Dix said Ottawa’s offer to send more of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in May and June to compensate is appreciated, but increased deliveries this month would be more helpful.

The delays in shipping will force B.C. to ensure it is able to quickly shift vaccine supplies, he said.

B.C. recorded 1,005 new COVID-19 cases Friday, along with 425 hospitalizations, breaking a record surpassed earlier this week. Forty-nine of the new cases were in the Island Health region, which had 23 people in hospital.

Modelling experts have warned that rising numbers of infections could overwhelm the province’s hospitals by May.

B.C. also announced six more deaths Friday, bringing the total number to 1,530.

The announcement of a delay in Moderna vaccine shipments came as Premier John Horgan received his first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“The AstraZeneca product is safe,” he said afterward. “My wife is slated to get her shot next week. I want all British Columbians to take advantage. When you get the call, get the opportunity, get vaccinated.”

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently being offered to residents 55 years and up due to concerns about the rare possibility of blood clots among those who are younger. The province says those who take advantage of these vaccines — available through pharmacies — will allow younger people to access the vaccine faster.

The pharmacy vaccines are being offered in parallel to the province’s age-based immunization program. People 45 and older are now eligible to register, with appointments being offered to those who are 63 and older. Registration will be expanded to people born in 1981 and earlier at noon on Monday.

More than 1.28 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C. so far.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Dix said in a joint statement that people need to be careful when meeting up with others outdoors.

“Be purposeful about who you are seeing and where you are going, and stick with the same close contacts,” they said.

The pair urged people to avoid travelling out of their neighbourhoods and to follow pandemic restrictions.

• For more information about the pharmacy vaccine program, go to bcpharmacy.ca.

• To register for the age-based program, go to gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated, call 1-833-838-2323 or go to a Services B.C. location.

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