BC experiences COVID-19 vaccine shortage

Healthcare officials are forced to alter the immunization plan

PHOTO: Stephen Cornfield / Unsplash

Written by: Karissa Ketter, News Writer

A shortage of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines is forcing the provincial government to alter their distribution plan. Dr. Bonnie Henry attributes this to delays in production and delivery. This has forced health officials to extend the time period between each dose. Previously, Pfizer’s doses were administered 35 days apart, but have now been extended to 42. 

According to Global News, health officials were told that the shortage of vaccines experienced in January is expected to continue into February. In the Vancouver Sun, Henry said she is extremely concerned. “We do not have enough vaccine[s] to protect everybody who needs our protection right now and we are not going to get that until a few weeks on.”

On January 26, 2021, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) put out a statement noting that the “global delay in receiving vaccine doses from Pfizer may affect the start date of some vaccination clinics in British Columbia First Nations communities.” While the FNHA primarily received the Moderna vaccine because it can be stored at a higher temperature and administered in rural areas, the statement notes that “in some regions, the regional health authority has provided Pfizer vaccines to support community clinics.”

Indigenous communities, residents and staff of long term care facilities, and health-care workers are priority groups in phase one of BC’s rollout. On January 27, 2021 the BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) website reported that starting in mid-February they plan to be ready  for phase two — where seniors aged 80+ and Indigenous seniors aged 65+ — will be vaccinated. However, BC Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen told the Vancouver Sun that she understood that phase one would be completed by the end of March. 

CTV News stated that Health Canada may be able to approve a third vaccine, AstraZeneca, by mid-February with hopes to receive 20 million doses. They also report that Canada has pre-ordered 10 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, pending approval, with the potential to receive 28 million more. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine only requires a single-dose.

The Government of Canada reported that as of January 21, 2021 British Columbia had distributed 144,550 vaccines. They also noted that the total number of vaccines distributed across Canada is 1,119,225 — largely to health-care workers, adults in Indigenous communities, and long-term care home staff and residents. 

For more information on Canada’s Immunization Plan, visit the Government of Canada or the BCCDC website.