Health officials have called off the regular live-streamed COVID-19 briefing in British Columbia on Thursday as they prepare to update the province’s strategy for immunization against the virus.
An advisory from the premier’s office says the briefing by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix – typically slated for Thursday at 3 p.m. – is cancelled.
Instead, they will join a news conference Friday with Premier John Horgan and Dr. Penny Ballem, who is leading B.C.’s COVID-19 immunization rollout.
The four are expected to comment on the next steps in the immunization program that has been complicated by a hiccup in vaccine supply from Pfizer-BioNTech.
Nearly 31,000 doses of vaccine the province expected by Jan. 29 could be curtailed due to production issues.
“We know that this delay will temporarily slow our delivery into the next phase of at-risk people, particularly into other parts of our hospital system,” Dr. Henry said earlier this week.
Henry called the news “a bit of a setback” but said the province remains on track to expand the vaccination roll out to more people in April.
In the interim, the focus of B.C. continues to be on immunizing people who are at the greatest risk, including residents and staff at care homes around the province.
Two doses of the vaccine are needed to ensure immunity from the COVID-19 virus and on Tuesday, Minister Dix said that B.C. was set to begin delivery of second doses, ensuring all those who have had the first shot will get a second within 35 days.
“The risk is not to second doses,” Dix said, suggesting the production delays will affect first doses instead. “Every single one of those doses is directed to a vulnerable person or someone working with vulnerable people…and every one of them is important.”
Dating back to the beginning of immunizations in British Columbia, the rollout increased week-by-week. That means the demand for second doses will increase over time, noted Dix.
In a joint statement Wednesday, Dix and Dr. Henry confirmed 98,125 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered.
With files to Canadian Press.