B.C. pushes hard for vaccine registration as supply rises sharply

B.C. pushes hard for vaccine registration as supply rises sharply
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Health Minister Adrian Dix says not enough people are registering for a vaccine on the government's website, as the province prepares for a surge in its vaccine supply.

B.C.’s health minister says more people need to register on the government’s website to receive a vaccine, and quickly, as the province faces a sharp increase in supply starting this week.

After a couple of weeks of a shortage, Dix said the province is set to double its number of Pfizer doses this week. B.C. is in line for almost 1.2 million doses of all vaccines this month, and its weekly supplies will rise again in June.

But the number of people registering on the government website to receive a dose is lagging.

“I would say we need to do better,” Dix said Monday.

“We need people to register. We’re booking clinics and filling our clinics every week. Up to now it hasn’t been an issue because we’ve had a limited amount of vaccine. But in the coming weeks we’re going to need more and more people to register.”

The government website allows anyone age 18 and older to register with their date of birth, postal code and personal health number. They then receive an email or text when they are eligible to book an appointment. The government is currently booking 54 year-olds and older for appointments, but is expected to reach 50 year olds by Thursday and into the 40s shortly thereafter. People who already got a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine at a pharmacy must also register, according to the province.

Only 2.1 million British Columbians have registered so far – which, when you subtract seniors, First Nations communities and clinically-vulnerable people who were not required to register online, means between only roughly 55 to 65 per cent of the remaining eligible population has signed up online to get a shot.

The government would not provide an exact figure. Dix said 65 per cent is “a bit high” of an estimate.

Dix called 2.1 million registrations so far “a good number” but not enough.

“We need it to be significantly higher so that in the month of June, especially, when we start to get more than 300,000 doses of Pfizer a week that we’re getting to everybody,” he said.

If registrations lag, the province can in May use its vaccine supply to target additional front-line workers, first responders, child care workers and school staff.

Premier John Horgan announced Monday he would spend the week holding dozens of meetings with leaders from the province’s business, faith and local government sectors to try and get the word out, through them, for people to register. He also plans to meet with social media influences. The premier’s goal is to identify and address any hesitancies occurring due to age, socio-economic, religious, ethnic or communications concerns.

The lowest age group registered for a vaccine on the government website is 25-29-year-olds, with 143,184 signed up so far online. That’s followed by 159,580 people aged 18-24.

The highest age group is 65-69 year-olds, who were eligible for their first dose last month. Approximately 228,511 people in this age group have signed-up online. B.C. is currently booking vaccinations for people aged 54 and older.

Registration hovers in the mid 170,000s for each of the five-year cohorts from 49 to 35, and rises to just below 200,000 in the 50-59-year cohort.

“If you look at vaccination levels over 80 and over 70, both close to 85 per cent,” said Dix. “We’ve obviously done a good job registering and vaccinating people in those categories.

“Now is the time when people in their late teens and their 20s and their 30s are going to get vaccinated. The vaccines are coming in the next two months. People who have waited to register need to register now.”

Government officials on Monday also clarified a glitch in the vaccination website that is prompting some people who received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine through a pharmacy to receive another “first” dose of Pfizer or Moderna at a clinic.

Henry said Monday people should decline an offer for a first dose if they’ve already had one and that more details are coming soon on how people will get a second dose. B.C. had set a 16-week interval between doses to preserve its supply, but Henry said Monday that timing will shrink soon.

“In some ways, we’ve been building a spaceship as we’ve been flying it, and we’re now entering into a new era, and new warp speed if you will, and there’s bound to be bumps along the way,” she said.

“We will adjust… We will take care of those glitches. There’s bound to be more that will arise as well, as we’re getting more and more vaccines and another million doses into people over these next few weeks. But everybody will get their vaccine and will get their turn, and that turn now is coming soon.”

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Rob ShawRob Shaw

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