Dr. Bonnie Henry and long-term care workers were the first Islanders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22. (Courtesy of Island Health)

Dr. Bonnie Henry and long-term care workers were the first Islanders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 22. (Courtesy of Island Health)

Dr. Bonnie Henry, long-term care staff get first doses of COVID-19 vaccine in Island Health

Dr. Bonnie Henry, long-term care staff received the vaccine Tuesday

Dr. Bonnie Henry and long-term care workers were the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Vancouver Island Tuesday morning.

By noon, chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick said, more than 60 people in Greater Victoria alone had received their first dose.

“The approach right now is to create a ring of safety around the residents of long-term care facilities,” he said.

Island Health received its first shipment – 1,950 vials – of the Pfizer vaccine to its facility on Dec. 21. Because it has to be stored at -70 C, the vaccine can only be administered from its storage facility.

Stanwick said they hope to receive permissions to transfer the vaccines again, so they could actually store some in long-term care facilities and more easily distribute it.

“We’re just having to adapt as we go,” he said.

Dena Scriven, a nursing assistant in long-term care, was the first health care worker in Island Health to get vaccinated.

“I felt a little bit nervous walking into that room with everybody, but it is a vaccine I have read a lot about,” she said. “I had no worries. I’m confident it is safe.”

The vaccine is being distributed based on proximity and vulnerability to COVID-19.

Long-term care workers will receive it first, followed by residents and other health care workers.

Changing circumstances may also alter how the limited supply is distributed, Stanwick explained, noting incidents like the Saanich Peninsula Hospital outbreak.

The Island should receive its next round of doses by January, he said, although the number has not yet been determined.

If Health Canada approves the Moderna vaccine, it is possible the Island will receive even more. The benefit of Moderna, Stanwick noted, is that it doesn’t have to be stored at sub-freezing temperatures and can more easily be transported to people in need.

While the arrival of the vaccine is exciting, Stanwick said, he emphasized that people still need to follow provincial health orders. If people choose to ignore them and gather for Christmas, he noted, the Island will see a significant uptick in cases in January.


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