Andy Yoon of Abbotsford receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 24. On Jan. 3 residents and staff at the Fraser Hope Lodge received their first doses. (Photo courtesy of Fraser Health)

Andy Yoon of Abbotsford receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 24. On Jan. 3 residents and staff at the Fraser Hope Lodge received their first doses. (Photo courtesy of Fraser Health)

Hope long term care residents, staff get first dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Fraser Health said vaccinations could ramp up to 30,000 per week by February

The province-wide COVID-19 vaccination campaign has reached Hope, with staff and residents at Fraser Canyon Hospital, Fraser Hope Lodge and Riverside Manor receiving the first of two doses in the first two weeks of January.

While Fraser Health can’t say how many people in Hope have been vaccinated, across the region 15,908 people had received the first dose of the vaccine as of Jan. 7. A source told the Hope Standard that Fraser Hope Lodge residents received the first dose Jan. 3 and residents at Riverside Manor received theirs a week later, Jan. 10. Hope Mayor Peter Robb confirmed, at a council meeting Jan. 11, that frontline healthcare workers at the Fraser Canyon Hospital had also been vaccinated.

Which exact vaccine Hope residents have received was not specified, yet according to a Jan. 11 briefing by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry there have been 59,902 doses of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines administered in the province. The Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t need ultra-cold storage, is being sent to remote areas of the province.

A total of 71,200 doses of the two vaccines have been received by the province so far and “we expect more vaccines, and more vaccines to be approved for use, by March,” Henry said. Yet she cautioned people to continue to follow public health advise and restrictions, as now is not the time to get complacent.

“We do not have enough supply coming between now and the end of March to achieve that community immunity,” she said. The so-called herd immunity could be achieved at 60 to 70 per cent of the population immunized, yet this figure depends on the novel coronavirus’s reproductive number, or how many people each infected individual spreads the virus to.

The priority for Fraser Health’s first stage of vaccine rollout is “staff, medical staff, residents and essential visitors in long term care and assisted living facilities, people awaiting long term care placement in acute and community settings, and priority acute care staff, medical staff and paramedics,” according to Dixon Tam, public affairs consultant with the health authority.

By mid-January, all of those who are eligible and working or living in long-term care or assisted living across the region should be getting their first dose.

Remote Indigenous communities in the Fraser Health region will start receiving vaccinations Jan. 13 Tam stated.

The second dose would likely be given 35 days after the first Henry said, which is longer than both Pfizer (21 days) and Moderna (28 days) recommended. Yet she defended this decision and outlined the science behind it.

“By waiting between doses it allows the body to build up that immunity,” she said, noting that the time period between the two doses allows the body to develop “antigens that attack the proteins, also for the body’s cell-mediated immunity to recognize the offending protein, the virus, as well.”

“We did not take this decision lightly,” Henry added, noting that scientists have reviewed materials from here in B.C. and around the world. B.C. has been told, she said, that vaccine deliveries will be backloaded – meaning that the rate of delivery will increase as time goes on.

“Based on the data from the clinical trials… shows protection two weeks [after first dose] was 92.6 per cent for Pfizer and 92.1 per cent for Moderna. That is quite frankly amazing.”

The data also shows, Henry noted, that there was no difference shown in immunity when people received their second dose at 19 days for Pfizer, 21 days for Moderna or at 42 days for either vaccine.

Fraser Health is also stepping up the number of immunizations they are completing in “one of the largest and most complex vaccine rollouts in recent history.” In January, 12-15,000 people per week are expected to be immunized, this number rising to up to 30,000 per week in February. To accomplish this work, Fraser Health stated they have hired 60 people specifically to be immunizers, as well as other staff brought in from other areas. Others in the community are also assisting including pharmacists and community physicians.

Immunization clinics are open at Surrey Memorial, Abbotsford Regional and Royal Columbian hospitals, as well as Burnaby Hospital.

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