Immunization campaign update, Jan. 20, 2021

Posted: January 20

Last Friday's news of a significant short-term reduction to Canada's supply of Pfizer vaccine was a blow to the thousands of acute care Island Health staff and physicians who have been eagerly awaiting their chance to be immunized against COVID-19.

We have worked hard to immunize the group at the top of B.C.'s priority population order – the staff, medical staff and residents of long-term care and assisted living. At this time last week we expected to receive enough supply to provide first doses to a significant number of acute care staff and medical staff in high priority areas, and began the process of contacting people and scheduling their appointments. Unfortunately, news of the supply reduction came just two days after that process began, and the resulting cancellations and changes have been a source of great frustration and anxiety for many people.

The demand for vaccine exceeds the supply we will have available over the next few weeks. We are using the provincial framework on priority populations to guide the difficult decisions about who will receive our available vaccine. As a result, staff and medical staff who work in the ICU, emergency departments, and on COVID cohort units at RJH and NRGH will be the first to receive vaccinations when supply is available. After that we will move to staff and medical staff in the same units at the North Island Hospital – Comox Valley campus, before moving on to our other emergency departments and intensive care units, and medical/surgical units. As we do this, we will also be weighing the prioritization of key at-risk community EDs in our decision-making.

Instead of using an online survey/intake form we are now using our staffing system and privileging database to identify staff and medical staff on those units. We will contact people directly about their appointments. There is no need for you to take individual action at this time.

The recent changes in our prioritization process is a necessary reaction to a temporary supply reduction and the provincial government direction provided to all of B.C.'s health authorities. It is not an indication that staff outside the above noted areas do not face risks or are less important than their colleagues.

This news is frustrating, but we remain confident that our vaccine supply will increase again, and that everyone will have access to vaccine as soon as possible.

Under B.C.'s vaccine distribution strategy the next groups to be eligible for vaccine in February and March include:

  • Acute care worker priority groups not completed in January, including staff on medical/surgical units and paramedics

  • Community-based seniors aged 80 and above, and Indigenous seniors age 65 and over

  • People experiencing homelessness or using shelters

  • Provincial correctional facilities

  • Adults in group homes or mental health residential care

  • Long-term home support recipients and staff

  • Hospital staff, community physicians and medical specialists

  • Indigenous communities not vaccinated in the first priority group

In the meantime we must all continue to use the measures that have successfully kept COVID-19 infections at bay for the last year: Maintain physical distance, carefully use PPE, wash your hand frequently, wear masks, never come to work sick and, above all, try and be patient and understanding with each other.