Island Health is marking a major milestone after first-dose COVID-19 immunizations in the region surpassed 100,000.
The 100,000th first dose was administered Friday, according to Island Health. So far, about 13 per cent of eligible people in the Island Health region have received their first vaccination since clinics began in late December.
The first immunizations were given to health care workers at a single clinic in Greater Victoria then grew to clinics throughout the region, long-term care homes and assisted living sites. On Thursday, the province announced that due to most residents of long-term care homes and assisted living facilities receiving their immunizations, it would relax restrictions for visitors at such sites.
READ MORE: Rules relaxed for long-term care, assisted living visitations in B.C.
“This has been the largest and most complex immunization effort in the history of our province,” said Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health’s Chief Medical Health Officer, in a statement.
“I am so proud of the unprecedented work undertaken by our teams and partners, and I’m optimistic for what this milestone represents in our collective fight against COVID-19.”
Island Health has been working through age-cohort vaccinations and as of Friday, those born in or before 1947 — people 74 years old — could start calling in at noon to book their appointments. The number to book in the Island Health region is 1-833-348-4787, open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.
Beginning next month, in addition to the age cohort, those deemed essential workers by the provincial government such as teachers, first responders and grocery store workers will be able to receive a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The province is also reaching out to “extremely clinically vulnerable” people outside of the current age cohort to allow them to book their vaccinations earlier than expected.
The new timeline means that about 200,000 people in B.C. aged 16 years or older who are clinically extremely vulnerable will receive their first-dose vaccine in the coming weeks.
Indigenous people age 65 also began receiving vaccine in community clinics on March 15. Island Health says so far, more than 11,500 doses have been administered to people living in 50 First Nations communities.
“As has been reported, First Nations communities across Vancouver Island and beyond have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, highlighting the importance of providing protection through immunization,” said Dr. Shannon McDonald, First Nations Health Authority acting Chief Medical Officer.
“We are so thankful to the First Nations communities who have and continue to play a critical role in this vaccination effort. This milestone would not have been achieved without your efforts.”
The province expects everyone eligible to receive an immunization will be able to do so before July 1.
Second doses will be administered no more than about 16 weeks, or four months, after people receive their first-dose vaccination. Those people will be contacted by Island Health when it’s time to schedule their second dose.