The first doses of the new COVID vaccine have been administered on Vancouver Island.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, along with Dena Scriven, a long-term care home nursing assistant, became the first two people on Vancouver Island to receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
“Physically, I barely felt a thing at all,” Henry told reporters immediately after receiving her first dose. “But you know, mentally, this is so important and I am so grateful for the team here.”
“It’s my way of showing how confident we are in the vaccine and how important it is for all of us to be immunized in solidarity with my healthcare worker colleagues,” she added.
Though Henry and Scriven were the first on the Island to receive the vaccine on Tuesday, they were not the only ones.
Sixty-two long-term care workers were vaccinated today, according to Island Health, which received 1,950 doses of the vaccine in its initial shipment.
“Immunization clinics for staff and physicians will expand across Island Health in the coming weeks, as we receive more doses,” the health authority said.
Island Health’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Richard Stanwick, added this is just the beginning.
“Even though Victoria got prioritized on the basis of having the highest risk facilities, our intention is, of course, to make sure we share this vaccine equitably across the Island,” he explained. “So there will definitely be a focal point in the north and one in the centre.”
Stanwick added another reason the Island doesn’t have more sites yet is because of the limitation of the vaccine. The Pfizer vaccine needs to be stored at -80 C, Stanwick explained, which makes it difficult to transport.
“The intent is to start small because of the limitations of that -80 C freezer,” Stanwick said. “But as we get…even better vaccines that are more robust, we’re going to have more sites, so our rural remote settings can also take advantage of having a vaccine.”
Meanwhile, Henry said it is important for everyone to get the vaccine once it becomes readily available.
“This vaccine is going to be available to everybody in the coming weeks and I encourage everybody to be immunized,” she said, adding. “There is a lot of work that has been done to make sure that this vaccine works and that it is safe and I have full confidence that it is both of those things.”
Health Canada approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech earlier this month. It is the first vaccine for COVID-19 that has been approved for national use in Canada.
The arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine comes nearly 300 days after the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.
Canada has also signed a contract to receive 168,000 doses of a second vaccine from U.S. biotech firm, Moderna. However, the vaccine has yet to be approved by Health Canada.
The next shipment of vaccines for the Island are expected in January.