Chief Medical Health Officer updates members on COVID-19 vaccinations

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VCH’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patty Daly was the guest speaker at the February 1st VMDAS quarterly meeting. Dr. Daly spoke about the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and took questions from the virtual audience.

“Canada,” she noted, “has purchase order agreements for more doses of vaccine per capita than any other country in the world. But, because there is no ability to manufacture vaccines in our country, we are reliant on supplies from others.”

British Columbia’s Ministry of Health has created a four-phase COVID-19 immunization plan. High-risk populations are prioritized during Phase 1 and 2, with the general population following in Phase 3 and 4.

“Acute care hospital staff providing direct care in COVID-19 medicine units, ICUs, and Emergency Departments are in Phase 1—not because individual health-care workers are at a higher risk of COVID-19 due to their work,” said Dr. Daly. “Rather, we need to protect the integrity of the health-care system.”

Immunization of these people is underway along with staff of acute care units experiencing outbreaks.

When will I be vaccinated?

“We have provided vaccinations to almost everyone identified as a priority in Phase 1,” added Dr. Daly. “We will complete that group once we have more vaccines and also add those in Phase 2.”

Phase 2’s priority groups include hospital staff, community general practitioners, and medical specialists not immunized in Phase 1. Outside of long-term care facilities, the risk of health-care workers contracting the virus at their place of work is no greater than anywhere else. Phase 2 is expected to run from February until the end of March, depending on vaccine supplies.

Phase 3 vaccinations will roll out from April to June with Phase 4 scheduled for July through September and will work backwards by age.

Vaccine efficacy and second doses

The shortage of vaccines has led to the Ministry of Health changing the date of the second dose to 42 days after the initial vaccination.

“With the two vaccines we currently have, there is about a 90 per cent efficacy rate 10 to 12 days after the initial dose,” explained Dr. Daly. “The second dose is considered a booster and there is no difference in its effectiveness if we wait 42 days to administer it. To give as many people as possible their first dose, we have delayed these second doses. Almost all the vaccines that arrive over the next two weeks will go to second doses. What’s leftover will go to St. Paul’s Hospital where there have been outbreaks and to our vulnerable citizens living in the Downtown Eastside.”

It is expected that the gap between first and second doses will return to 21-28 days in Phases 3 and 4, providing the supply is constant.

Dr. Daly cautions that we do not yet know if COVID-19 vaccination prevents transmission of the disease. Therefore, we must continue to wear PPE, social distance, and self-isolate if we come in close contact with someone with COVID-19 or upon return from travel abroad. She also recommends that anyone who was previously infected with COVID-19 be vaccinated, waiting until approximately three months after infection.

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