B.C.'s top doctor says people should take 1st vaccine available, as province marks 15 more COVID-19 deaths
Dr. Bonnie Henry counters message from NACI that mRNA vaccines are preferred
British Columbia's top doctor says people in the province should take the first vaccine they're offered, as Canada's vaccine advisory committee reaffirmed its preference Monday for mRNA vaccines.
"The first vaccine that you have access to is the one you should get and that includes the AstraZeneca vaccine," Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a Monday briefing.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) said the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be offered to people 30 and older who don't want to wait for Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, contradicting Health Canada's mantra to opt for the first vaccine available.
"The viral-vector vaccines are very effective vaccines, but there is a safety signal, a safety risk," NACI vice-chair Dr. Shelley Deeks told a virtual news conference.
Henry agreed that some people may want to wait for an mRNA vaccine due to the risk of rare but potentially serious blood clots linked to Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which are viral vector vaccines.
But she stressed that real-world evidence shows both types of vaccine are equally effective, providing high levels of protection against COVID-19 and preventing hospitalizations and deaths.
Henry noted her own family members have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Henry's comments came as 15 more British Columbians died from COVID-19 over a three-day period, while the province recorded 2,174 more cases.
Henry said all deaths were linked to people above the age of 70, with the exception of one person in their 50s. Most deaths occurred in hospitals, she said.
The province confirmed 835 cases Friday to Saturday, 671 cases Saturday to Sunday, and 668 cases Sunday to Monday, for a daily average of 725 cases.
That marks a 13-per-cent drop from the previous Monday, as B.C.'s third-wave curve continues to decline, more than a month after the province implemented a "circuit breaker"-style lockdown on indoor activities.
"There are some encouraging signs that our efforts are working," Henry said.
"We are starting to come down on the other side of the curve. And as we have seen in places like the U.K. and the U.S., once we get down that curve, we can start to see dramatic decreases."
A total of 474 people are in hospital — the lowest number since April 20 — with 176 people in intensive care.
But B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix warned that the numbers are still too high and straining the province's health-care system.
"The fact that in a number of health authorities, we are using surge [capacity] beds in our ICU, in particular, should tell us the need right now to be disciplined," he said.
There are 7,327 active cases of COVID-19 in the province, with 11,871 people under public health monitoring.
Vaccinations ramping up
As of Monday, 1,877,330 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, including 91,731 second doses. More than 45 per cent of eligible British Columbians have now received a first dose.
Henry said vaccine bookings will accelerate this week as shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines ramp up, with one million doses expected in May.
"We're entering into a new era, a new warp speed," she said.
Henry said the province will be able to meet its goal of providing the first shot to every eligible British Columbian by July 1 and likely sooner than that.
She said as increased shipments continue, the province should be able to shrink the four-month window between the first and second doses.
Henry noted concerns from people who may have received the first dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine and are unsure whether they'll get a second dose, due to limited supply.
She said federal officials are monitoring Canada's supply, while B.C. is eyeing studies, including one in the United Kingdom, that will determine the effectiveness of mixing vaccines.
"It may turn out that it is a better stronger immune response to receive a second dose with a different vaccine," she said. "We don't yet know that."
No big outdoor events
Henry also cautioned that large outdoor events are still not likely to take place this summer, or into the fall and winter next year.
The three-day Honda Celebration of Light fireworks event, one of the largest and most popular summer celebrations in Vancouver, has been cancelled this summer and will return in 2022, organizers announced Monday.
Watch | Dr. Bonnie Henry says small outdoor events may be allowed, but there will be no big outdoor events this summer
"We have seen that things can change very quickly. We saw that in the last few weeks," Henry said, referring to the province's surging case numbers.
"But I can see many situations where we could have smaller, distanced outdoor events this summer, with perhaps hundreds of people."
Henry said the province is watching pilot programs in the U.K., including a warehouse club in Liverpool, England, that hosted 3,000 attendees who were tested before and after the event.
Henry also urged all B.C. residents to register online for their vaccinations, even those who received their first vaccine from a pharmacy.
She said pharmacies and workplaces are inputting doses into the province's immunization registry, but glitches and delays can happen.
"For example, I got my first dose of Pfizer, but got a notification that I was eligible for a shot last week as my age group became eligible," she said.
Anyone who has already received a first dose and receives an invite from the province can ignore it, she said. Residents will receive another invite when their second dose approaches.
Everyone 18 and older can register for their vaccination, while B.C. residents aged 54 and older who have registered to be vaccinated are now receiving invitations from the province to book their shots.
There are three ways to register:
- Online through the "Get Vaccinated" portal.
- By phone through the provincial phone line at 1-833-838-2323.
- In person at any Service B.C. location.
Registering for a vaccine is not the same as booking the appointment to get your shot. Once registered, users receive a confirmation code. They then wait for an email, text or call telling them they are eligible and can then book their vaccine appointment using that code.
The province is also continuing to vaccinate people between the ages of 30 and 65 with the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in local pharmacies throughout the province.
With files from The Canadian Press, Bridgette Watson and Justin McElroy