As Omicron cases explode, Island Health ramps up booster shot program

As Omicron cases explode, Island Health ramps up booster shot program

With Omicron cases mounting, 24 additional vaccination stations will be ready to start administering booster shots at the Archie Browning Sports Centre on Thursday.

Island Health‘s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, expects to get 48,000 doses into the arms of Vancouver Island residents every week.

“The question is why are we pushing so hard?” Stanwick asked. “We hit a milestone yesterday; 20,000 cases of COVID since this pandemic began on the Island.”

As COVID cases explode, B.C. reported 417 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Island Health today, the authority says it is returning to the mass vaccination sites.

At its peak, every day more than 360 people received their vaccinations at Archie Browning.

“We are expanding our capacity to be able to administer vaccinations, but we are not alone, we’ve been very fortunate to add 81 pharmacists to date. Again they are providing vaccines. We anticipate more joining the group,” said Stanwick.

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With large vaccination sites re-opening and more pharmacies being added to the list, Stanwick says scheduled appointments should be moved ahead.

While Island Health is working to speed up its booster shot program, the health authority is also facing staffing issues.

Earlier this week, the BC Nurses’ Union interim president, Danette Thomsen, said staffing levels are close to the breaking point.

“Vancouver Island is, I would say it’s critical,” Thomsen said. “Victoria, they are having a heck of a time with staffing. We’re hearing from nurses saying they’ve never seen it this bad.”

But Stanwick says that while it’s difficult, the system is not overwhelmed.

“One measure that we took that was quite difficult on December 31st, we actually sent a message out to our staff saying we know you are on break but would you voluntarily come back?  And sufficient people came back and allowed us to continue to function and provide safe care,” says Island Health’s top doctor.

With measures like mass clinics opening, so far, Island Health appears to be weathering the Omicron storm, for now.

-With files from Kori Sidaway

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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