British Columbia’s initial shipment of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be used to inoculate workers in vulnerable sectors including food processing plants and employees who live in congregate settings, health officials announced on Mar. 15.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said 60,000 doses of the vaccine are being allocated to industries where the use of personal protective equipment can be challenging, and where outbreaks and clusters are ongoing.
Outbreaks from large industrial camps with shared accommodation have spilled into communities across the country as workers fly in and out of the camps, Henry told a news conference.
The highest-risk categories of work sites were identified through a task force established by Henry last November. They include places where poultry, fruit and fish are processed as well as agricultural operations and large industrial camps where close living quarters make isolation and quarantine difficult.
Henry said the province’s committee is reviewing the latest data and recommendations from its federal counterpart to determine additional workplaces that will be prioritized for immunization with the AstraZeneca vaccine.
British Columbia recorded 1,506 cases of COVID-19 since Mar. 12, and 10 more people have died, for a total of 1,407 deaths.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said there are outbreaks at three long-term care facilities, down from 42 just two months ago, which is a signal that vaccines are making a difference.
The province has administered 409,103 doses of vaccine, and just over 87,000 people have received two doses, Henry said, adding mass clinics that began on Mar. 15 are expected to ramp up quickly over the coming months.
The inoculation of vulnerable workers complements the province’s age-based vaccination plan, which is one week ahead of schedule with seniors aged 84 and older, plus Indigenous elders 65 and up, currently booking appointments for a shot.
Dix said people aged 83 and older can make an appointment as of Mar. 16 and the age eligibility drops daily until anyone 80 and up can make arrangements for a jab by Mar. 19.