A long line of front-line workers formed in front of the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Building Saturday morning, all waiting to get their COVID-19 vaccine at the new clinic.
Island Health posted signs outside of the building showing people receiving their vaccinations where to line-up.
Island Health did not directly confirm Saturday’s clinic when asked about it by CHEK News, instead issuing a statement saying that the authority “is working to organize mass immunization clinics across our region in preparation to begin implementing the next phases of B.C’s COVID-19 immunization plan.”
The University of Victoria directed all questions about the COVID-19 immunization clinic to Island Health.
Everyone in line who spoke with CHEK News confirmed they worked on the front lines of the pandemic, like nurses and physiotherapists.
Kelcey Erlandson, a physiotherapist with Island Health, says an employee from the health region called her on Friday night, asking if she wanted to receive the vaccine on the weekend.
“I feel good, I feel relieved, I feel a little bit emotional,” said Erlandson.
Another health care worker said she was informed about the clinic the previous night at 7 p.m.
“They asked me if I was ready to come today or tomorrow,” said Sylvie Tellier, a family doctor. “I am so excited, I feel like this is the first step toward some normalcy in all this chaos.”
Although hospital health care workers are part of Phase 1 of B.C’s vaccine rollout plan, some of those getting their vaccines now are wondering why they’re first in line.
“Being in health care, I think it’s pretty important to protect others,” said Heather Allen, one of dozens waiting in line to receive their immunization.
“I do have an 82-year-old mother, and I do wish she actually had it before me, but I think the logistics are a little bit tricky.”
According to epidemiologist Dan Coombs of UBC, new information released in the last couple of weeks shows that immunizing front-line workers first could drastically flatten the curve.
“The vaccine prevents transmission, it doesn’t just prevent the disease. Before we knew that, we only knew that the vaccines had protection against disease effect, so the initial strategy, which I think was the perfect strategy to go with, was to vaccinate the people most at risk — those elderly groups and care homes.”
The mathematics professor says a recent study out of Simon Fraser University shows that immunizing high-contact individuals could be the best option for stopping transmission.
“The study shows vaccinating younger, high-contact individuals will have a big payoff in this phase in the epidemic in British Columbia,” said Coombs.
According to the province, 91 per cent of residents in long-term care have been given the vaccine, and BC is expected to move into Phase 2 at the end of the month and into March.
Island Health says more details on immunization clinics will be available in the coming weeks and months.
Next week, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is expected to release more information on how seniors over age 80 will receive their immunizations.