Paramedics, police and firefighters are among priority groups for COVID-19 vaccine starting in April. (The Canadian Press)

Paramedics, police and firefighters are among priority groups for COVID-19 vaccine starting in April. (The Canadian Press)

B.C. emergency, grocery, school staff get COVID-19 vaccine starting April

Age-based immunization program ahead of schedule

Front-line workers in B.C. will start getting COVID-19 vaccine in April, including police, firefighters, child care, grocery store, postal and K-12 education staff, B.C. health officials announced this week.

The age-based community vaccination is ahead of schedule, and the arrival of AstraZeneca vaccine allows the parallel system for front-line people can begin, Premier John Horgan said. Also in the priority group are bylaw and quarantine officers, manufacturing workers, wholesale and warehousing employees, staff in congregate housing such as ski hills, correctional facilities staff and cross-border transport staff.

B.C. is expecting to have 340,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by late May, allowing the more widespread vaccination of front-line workers. Social distance, masks and other precautions are still needed, as vaccine takes time to be effective and does not entirely remove the risk of infection, and vaccines are not a “get out of jail free card,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

Health officials will be contacting employee groups to give them information on vaccines, and individuals should not call the regional health authorities’ appointment phone lines that are reserved for age-based vaccination. With more supplies of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine as well as AstraZeneca that is easier to transport, the age-based timeline is also being moved up in the weeks to come.

RELATED: B.C. moves up timetable of age-based vaccinations

Federal officials say the latest assurances of vaccine delivery mean there will be adequate supplies to offer a first shot to all adults by the end of June.

“Having another safe, effective vaccine means we can protect more people, faster,” Horgan said. “This means we’re closer to the end.”

Henry said concerns about a small group of people in Europe developing blood clots have been alleviated. European health officials have approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, and a single case of blood clotting in a Canadian vaccine recipient has been determined not related to vaccine, Henry said. Blood clots in the heart or lungs develop in people at all times, and the number of cases that caused alarm in Europe is fewer than what occurs in the population without vaccination.

Safety monitoring of all vaccines means every dose of each type of vaccine delivered is recorded daily, not only to provide a record of who has been immunized, when and where, but to check for “safety signals” that may emerge with certain batches.

“We monitor that information by lot number, by every vaccine on an ongoing and daily basis, so we’re able to see if signals arise,” Henry said. “This is the same process that’s happening around the world.”

RELATED: U.S. urged to help Canada reach ‘vaccine parity,’ open border


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