British Columbia

B.C. opening up vaccinations to seniors 85 and older ahead of scheduled timeline

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced people 85 years and older will be able to book vaccine appointments as of Thursday, four days ahead of the original schedule.

Bookings for next age cohort will open at noon Thursday

Registered nurse Monika Stasiak delivers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination to a front line worker at Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver last week. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix says people age 85 and older will be able to book vaccine appointments as of Thursday, four days ahead of the original schedule.

The bookings for the next age cohort will begin at noon Thursday, instead of next Monday as previously planned.

"This is a positive step," the minister said. "I invite everyone in B.C. [above 85] to take advantage of this opportunity."

Dix said in Victoria on Wednesday that appointments for people 90 and older have proceeded more quickly than expected and are almost completed, despite a slow start on Monday.

"This afternoon there were essentially no wait times to book appointments," said Dix.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry later said that she's hopeful the immunization plan will keep accelerating as more vaccine supplies arrive.

"There's always a bit of startup growing pains," she said during CBC's virtual town hall on B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccination plan.

"Once we get the clinics up and running and many of them have started already, get people booked in, get that sense of 'okay we can get through this, we're going to make it work' I'm really confident that we'll be able to speed things up."

A total of 37,661 appointments have been booked as of Wednesday out of the roughly 48,000 British Columbians over 90 eligible this week. Approximately 21,600 of those seniors have already been immunized.

Monday, approximately 35,000 Indigenous people over 65 also became eligible to book vaccine appointments. The Ministry of Health has not yet provided specifics about how many bookings have been made, but Dix says close to 30,000 people in this group have been immunized.

Seniors age 90 and older can continue to make appointments while bookings open for the 85 years and older age cohort. The 85 to 89 age group means another 75,000 B.C. residents are now eligible for vaccine appointments.

Dix says 25,784 seniors between the ages of 80 to 89 have already received at least their first shot as part of the initial immunization drive for seniors in long-term care, assisted living, independent living and who are clients receiving home support.