All adult residents living and working in Whistler now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Ski resort north of Vancouver has been a hot spot for the virus and variants of concern
All adults who live and work in Whistler, B.C., will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, according to Vancouver Coastal Health.
The health authority says it's launching the two-week vaccination program because of increasing transmission of the virus in the ski resort community. It says there were 1,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded in Whistler between Jan. 1 and April 5.
"Currently, Howe Sound has the highest rate of COVID-19 of any local health area in the province," Vancouver Coastal Health said in a written statement. "The majority of these cases reside in the Whistler community."
Many of the cases were determined to be the P1 strain of the virus originally found in Brazil, which is three times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain and more virulent among young people.
Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.'s immunization program, says Whistler has been the epicentre of three surges of the virus since January.
"We've used aggressive public health measures to the best of our ability to manage them," Ballem said.
Part of the problem in Whistler is the number of young staff members who live in close quarters because of the housing crisis in the area.
Ballem says there's been strong uptake of the vaccine in the Howe Sound corridor so far, and health officials expect that to continue as eligibility expands.
How to register
Adults 18 to 54 can get their vaccine at the Whistler Conference Centre, by appointment at www.vchcovid19vaccine.com.
Those between 55 and 65 can get the AstraZeneca vaccine at their local pharmacy, by appointment at the B.C. Pharmacy Association scheduling systems.
Residents 65 and older are already eligible to book through the B.C. Ministry of Health's age-based cohort system at www.gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated beginning on April 14.
To prove eligibility, residents will have to provide proof of their permanent address by showing their driver's licence or a valid credit card statement. Workers who don't live in the community can show a recent pay stub.
Ski resort remains closed
The resort has been closed since the end of March when the province ordered it to shut down because of travel-related rising COVID-19 cases.
Whistler Blackcomb decided not to reopen for the tail end of the ski season once the provincial health order is lifted on April 19.
Most of the cases were in young adults between the ages of 20 and 39.
The health authority previously said the reported cases mostly involve young people who live and work in Whistler, with transmission occurring in household settings and at social gatherings.