British Columbia

Here's how to book your AstraZeneca shot if you're over 40 in British Columbia

On Monday, B.C. health officials announced that all people aged 40 and older are now eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine through pharmacies and, in some hard-hit areas, special clinics.

As of Monday, all B.C. residents aged 40 and over are eligible to book an appointment

People line up for the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Vancouver's West End on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

On Monday, B.C. health officials announced that all people aged 40 and older are now eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine through pharmacies and, in some hard-hit areas, special clinics.

Here is what you need to know about getting your first shot in B.C.:

Am I eligible for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine?

As of Monday, April 19, people born in 1981 and earlier can book an appointment and get the AstraZeneca vaccine at eligible pharmacies with vaccine supply in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, the Interior and Northern B.C. 

Pharmacist Eugene Woo delivers an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Davie Pharmacy in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The British Columbia government is also inviting people 18 years and older to register for their COVID-19 vaccine over the next week through the province's Get Vaccinated program. Vaccine registration is not the same as booking an appointment. Once residents are registered they will be contacted about booking an appointment.

Where can I get the vaccine?

There are two ways B.C.'s supply of AstraZeneca doses is being distributed. The first is through a list of provincially approved pharmacies who are administering shots to any adult over the age of 40 across the province.

The second targets a list of 13 Community Health Service Areas that have seen the highest COVID-19 case rates. Special clinics will administer vaccines in those areas. All but two of the communities are in the Lower Mainland.

How can I book an appointment?

If you are over 40 and live in one of the top priority communities listed above you can register through the province's Get Vaccinated program, and will immediately be issued an invitation to book a vaccine appointment. 

If you don't live in one of those areas, the province recommends booking directly with one of the pharmacies on its list of participating pharmacies with AstraZeneca doses.

Some pharmacists also recommend that you check their websites daily as they post daily updates on the availability of doses and sometimes have last minute walk-in availability.

Some, though not all, pharmacies will add you to their waiting lists if they do not have appointments immediately available.

Some pharmacists recommend checking their websites daily as they post updates on the availability of doses and sometimes have last minute walk-in availability. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Is the AstraZeneca vaccine safe?

Health Canada has authorized the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults 18 and over.

On March 29, B.C. followed recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) that AstraZeneca be limited to people aged 55 and older after a small number of younger people in Europe developed a serious blood-clotting condition called vaccine-induced prothrombotic immune thrombocytopenia (VIPIT). 

The odds of getting a blood clot are estimated to be between one in 100,000 and one in 250,000. An Oxford study found the risk of blood clots from a COVID-19 infection is eight to 10 times higher than from a vaccine.

"Get whatever vaccine is available to you. It's that simple. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the longer you're not protected," Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, told reporters last week.

How many doses are available in British Columbia?

Pharmacies have limited supplies of the vaccine. As of Friday, there were 191,604 AstraZeneca doses available in B.C. There are more than one million people between 40 and 55 in the province.

"We don't yet have line of sight on additional doses," Henry said Monday, adding some pharmacy doses could go to the priority clinics as well.

Pharmacists say that's why it's important to check their websites and book ahead of time.

"We always expect more but it varies day to day. It varies how many vaccines we get and each location it varies," explained Mahtab Shafaee, pharmacist at Pure Integrative Pharmacy in North Vancouver.

Do all pharmacies administer AstraZeneca vaccines?

Only the list of provincially approved pharmacies currently has supply of AstraZeneca doses. That includes major chains like London Drugs, Shoppers DrugMart and Rexall as well as many independent pharmacies.

With the minimum age lowered to 40 on Monday, London Drugs announced that it has added 27 locations providing the AstraZeneca vaccine for a total of 47 pharmacies across the province.

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