‘Optimistic’ Henry eyes post-pandemic summer as B.C. reports another 564 cases, four deaths

'Optimistic' Henry eyes post-pandemic summer as B.C. reports another 564 cases, four deaths
Government of B.C.
Health Minister Adrian Dix and Chief Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provide an update on COVID-19 on March 2, 2021.

Dr. Bonnie Henry says with a fourth vaccine on the horizon and a recently approved four-month window between doses, the province could be in a “post-pandemic” world by summer.

B.C.’s top doctor spoke during a Thursday update in which she confirmed 564 new cases and four deaths from COVID-19 since health officials’ last update on Wednesday.

The number of confirmed cases in B.C. climbs to 82,473 while the province’s death toll now stands at 1,376.

Of the new cases, 168 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health, 279 were in Fraser Health, 35 in Island Health, 36 in Interior Health, and  in 46 Northern Health.

There are currently 4,743 active cases in the province, 248 people in hospital — 63 of whom are in intensive care — and 8,659 people under active public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case.

A total of 76,289  people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19, while 298,851 doses of vaccine have been administered.

Henry also confirmed 46 new cases of COVID-19 variants detected in the province, bringing the total number of variant cases to 246. Of those, 16 are still active and two deaths in recent days were attributed to variants of concern. The Island Health region has seen six people contract the COVID-19 variant overall.

No new outbreaks were declared Thursday, leaving the seven outbreaks linked to long-term and assisted-living care homes, three in independent living facilities and eight in acute care settings.

AstraZeneca on the way as ‘essential workers’ determined

Henry also let British Columbians know that doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine will be arriving in the province next week.

“This vaccine will be made available to first responders and other essential workers,” she said. Delivery will run in tandem, but separately, from B.C.’s age-based mass immunization plan.

Because the vaccine is being received earlier, essential workers — people who cannot work from home — will likely be able to receive it before phases three and four, Henry said.

The BC Immunization Committee is currently in the process of determining who should receive the vaccine as it becomes available. A detailed plan will be developed over the next week to two weeks and will be shared around March 18, she said.

Henry said with AstraZena on the way and the Johnson and Johnson vaccine likely receiving approval by Health Canada in the coming days, the province’s timeline could move up when it comes to seeing the end to restrictive public health orders.

“With these additional vaccines and our ability to be more flexible on how we use them, we need to address those people who have not been able to work away from others at home, and they are also, we know…people who are more likely to be transmitting,” she said.

“Maybe I’m too optimistic, but we’re going to be in our post-pandemic world by this summer if things continue to go the way that we want them to.”

Earlier in the news conference, Henry also touched on what she called B.C.’s “very important” decision to extend the interval between first and second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to four months, something she says will “maximize that really good protection that we’re coming to understand that we would get from the initial dose.”

The move came with criticism from Canada’s chief science adviser, Mona Nemer, who called it a “basically population-level experiment.”

But provincial health officials were buoyed after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released a statement Wednesday calling all jurisdictions in Canada to extend the interval to four months due to a limited supply of vaccine.

“Current evidence suggests high vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease and hospitalization for several weeks after the first dose, including among older populations,” the committee wrote in its findings.

Pfizer and Moderna currently recommend less than 30 days between first and second doses, but the UK and Israel have extended the vaccine dose intervals by four months as well.

“The decision-making we don’t take lightly, we spend quite a lot of time looking at it, but we did need to take this decision rather rapidly over this weekend,” Henry said.

“While I will regret and apologize to those communities, to the long-term care homes, and to individuals who had a second dose scheduled that had been postponed…I know that came as a shock for many people, and I regret that our communications weren’t able to keep up.”

Jeff LawrenceJeff Lawrence

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