More age groups urged to register for COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.

Another 167 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Island Health over weekend, two more deaths

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix is urging B.C. residents age 55 and older to register now to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. People born in 1971 or earlier (age 50 plus) can start registering April 14, those born in 1976 or earlier (age 45 and older) on April 16, and those born in 1981 or earlier (age 40 plus) can register starting April 19.

The age-based program mainly uses the Pfizer vaccine, along with the Moderna. The AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered through pharmacies to people age 55 to 65.

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All the vaccines are working well against COVID viruses circulating in the province, including the variants, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

This week, a shipment of 138,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine is expected, along with 105,900 doses of Moderna, and 42,900 doses of AstraZeneca.

Henry said as part of a program parallel to the age-based one, frontline workers including firefighters and police are being vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines over the next few weeks alongside staff at schools and child-care centres. Henry is asking other essential workers to be patient while the province focuses on transmission hotspots.

About 50 per cent of COVID‑19 cases are variants of concern, Henry said, as she announced 3,289 new cases were detected over the weekend, including 167 in Island Health.

The weekend total included the second highest daily case count, at 1,283 on Friday, following the record of 1,293 on Thursday. “This is, I don’t need to say, our third wave,” said Henry. “Our focus has been on doing all we can to prevent people from getting sick and particularly to keep people from being hospitalized, needing ICU care, or dying from COVID-19. At the same time, we have put in measures to ensure that our health care system can still be there for every-body.”

As of Monday, the province had 9,937 active cases; 368 people with COVID-19 are in hospital, including 121 in intensive or critical care.

It’s not a record for hospital­izations, said Dix, but it’s close. As a result, the Provincial Health Services Authority redeployed eight critical care nurses to the Fraser Health Authority. Some surgery in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal has been affected.

“This will not be like last year where we cancelled, en masse, our scheduled surgeries,” said Dix. Interventions will be targeted and as short as possible, he said. “The regional growth in cases is having a real impact on health care workers and, for the first time, is beginning to impact our effort to ensure individuals receive needed scheduled surgeries since we relaunched the surgical renewal plan in May.”

There were 18 COVID-related deaths, including two in Island Health, over the weekend, bringing the total 1,513. The deaths were predominantly among people in their 60s and 70s who were in hospital, said Henry.

Almost 16,000 people around the province are being monitored for the virus after coming in contact with a confirmed case.

“You may feel that your individual actions don’t make a difference, but I’m here to tell you, again and again, they do,” said Henry.

To weather “this part of the storm” and get to the end as quickly as possible, Henry asked people to stay in their “immediate neighbourhood as much as possible.”

“So if you live in North Bend, you should not be traveling to Langley, or to Richmond,” she said. “If you live in the Lower Mainland, you should not be traveling to the Island.” Only essential travel is allowed “and nothing more,” she said.

People should get outside for the betterment of their mental and physical health but they should do so in their backyard, or neighbourhood, and do that with their small and same group of household members, or work or school cohorts, said Henry.

And health officials’ orders to self-isolate for the 14-day COVID-19 incubation period should not be regarded as optional, Henry said.

A new health order comes into effect today, giving WorkSafe B.C. authority to close businesses for 10 days when there’s been transmission in the workplace. A list of closed businesses will be found on health authority and B.C. Centre for Disease Control websites.

“It’s not about blaming them, it’s about supporting businesses when this virus comes into your workplace to make sure that we can stop the transmission and prevent it from spreading to workers,” said Henry.

“At this time of the marathon, of this storm that we’ve been in for so, so long, it’s so easy to get discouraged, to get angry, to get frustrated and now more than ever, all of us have to remember … we don’t always know the story of that person who’s doing something that’s driving us crazy,” said Henry, explaining the need to continue to be empathetic and kind.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

> Register online at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated. Or phone 1-833-838-2323, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For the AstraZeneca vaccine, go to bcpharmacy.ca

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