A Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) official has clarified the rollout of vaccinations on the Sunshine Coast has not yet started but is expected to as early as next week.
Clarification followed a statement received from VCH Jan. 6 indicating the immunization program was already underway.
The statement read: “Our COVID-19 immunization program continues to prioritize those most vulnerable to COVID-19, including residents, staff and essential visitors at long-term care homes; this includes those located on [the] Sunshine Coast.”
VCH director Gerry Latham said Jan. 9 immunizations have not occurred on the Sunshine Coast and the health authority is “tentatively” anticipating vaccines will be available by Wednesday, Jan. 13. “We are ready to receive the vaccine when it's available and as soon as we get it, we'll be immunizing,” Latham told Coast Reporter.
“At the moment, we are tentatively looking at mid-week and we will be providing vaccines for residents, staff, physicians and essential visitors for Totem Lodge, Shorncliffe and Christenson Village,” she said.
Eligible employees include people who regularly work at long-term care facilities during the pandemic and who provide direct care, as well as support staff, the statement said.
Six long-term care facilities in the VCH region that experienced outbreaks were the first to receive the approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Dec. 23. Since then, Health Canada has approved the Moderna Vaccine.
There have been no outbreaks at Sunshine Coast long-term care facilities as of Jan. 7.
So far the Sunshine Coast health region has maintained a relatively low daily rate of between 0.1 and 5 infections per 100,000 people, but cases have been on the rise this winter.
On Jan. 7, data released by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) show the lower Sunshine Coast had 96 cases of COVID-19 in 2020, with more than two-thirds of those cases occurring in the last two months of the year. Cases rose sharply between Dec. 6 and 19, with 34 new infections.
By comparison, neighbouring regions Powell River and Howe Sound, which includes Whistler and Squamish, had 53 and 503 cases in 2020, respectively.
The latest numbers also show case counts have dropped recently, with three cases confirmed from Dec. 20 to 26 on the lower Sunshine Coast and another three from Dec. 27 to Jan. 2.
B.C. provincial health officer Bonnie Henry said on Jan. 7 plans are underway to vaccinate 70,000 long-term care residents and staff in the province by month’s end, as well as 13,000 people in assisted living.
By end of January, health officials will oversee the vaccination of 30,000 frontline health-care workers, such as paramedics and hospital staff working in intensive care units and emergency departments.
As of Jan. 8 more than 46,000 British Columbians had received their first dose.
Following priority populations, immunizations will be available for people above the age of 80, followed by doses for descending five-year brackets, with 792,000 doses expected to be administered by the end of March.
Even as the immunization program rolls out, Henry has extended restrictions on all gatherings in people’s homes and in public venues and all events and sports activities until Feb. 5 at midnight.
“We need to hold the line with the public health orders for the next two incubation periods – one month – to ensure we are doing all we can to keep everyone in the province as safe as possible. These orders enable our health-care system, schools and essential workplaces to continue to stay open, which is important for all of us,” said Henry.
– with files from Tyler Orton