Interior Health is confident it will have enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to immunize all those who wish to be inoculated against the disease.
But the health authority is asking the public to be patient as the call centre for appointments opens on Monday, March 8.
Karen Bloemink, Interior Health’s vice-president of pandemic response, said during a press conference on Sunday that any delays experienced will be addressed.
Immunization clinic locations will be confirmed at the time of booking, with vaccinations starting as early as March 15.
There are 49 clinics in the Interior Health region, which stretches from the Chilcotin in the west to the B.C./Alberta border in the east and from the Williams Lake area in the north to the B.C./Washington border in the south.
In Kamloops, there will be two clinics. The clinic at the McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre in North Kamloops will open on March 15, whle the clinic at the Tournament Capital Centre on the Thompson Rivers University campus will open on March 22.
Bloemink said 400,000 people are expected to be vaccinated in B.C. by early April, a number that represents about eight per cent of the province’s estimated population of 5.1 million.
See below or click here for initial schedule of which age groups can call, and when.
Bloemink noted appointments are being booked for first doses only, with Interior Health then contacting people when a second dose is to be administered. The province recently extended the time between first and second shots to four months in a bid to first immunize more people with at least one shot.
Canada has approved four vaccines, with Johnson & Johnson’s product — the only single-shot inoculation — getting the green light on March 5. The federal government has ordered 10-million doses, which are expected to arrive between April and June.
While appointments are being taken on a staggered basis, age group by age group, week by week, Bloemink said people can book any time they wish once their demographic becomes eligible to call.
People cannot call ahead of their eligible booking date.
Click here to see a list of vaccination sites and the dates they open. In Kamloops, vaccination sites will open on March 15 at the Tournament Capital Centre and at the McArthur Island.
We are very confident we will have vaccines available for those that want to receive an immunization,” Bloemink said, noting Interior Health is working closely with the national supply chain.
As for those who cannot make it to the vaccination sites, Bloemink said Interior Health is urging friends and family of such residents to help with booking appointments and with transportation.
She said health officials are working with known clients with mobility issues and asking the call centre to gather information for those who cannot get to a site so there is a plan for them to get vaccinated.
“As we move forward with opening access to vaccines to increasing age groups, we will be adapting locations and availability of clinics across the geography of Interior Health,” Bloemink said.
“The list you see today will be adjusted according to need.”
Those seeking to get immunized will not be able to choose which vaccine they receive and will be inoculated with what is on hand at various clinics.
Dr. Albert De Villiers, chief medical health officer for Interior Health, said procedures will not immediately change after a person is vaccinated.
“Even after vaccination, we must still follow health orders,” he said, noting vaccine distribution will not be widespread enough to cease adhering to the health orders that include distancing, mask use and restrictions on visits to health-care facilities and long-term care homes.
“We’re already looking forward to making sure that, eventually, we can increase visits to long-term care homes,” De Villiers said. “But even after receiving vaccines, we still have to follow health orders. Hopefully, in next couple of months, we can get there.”
Booking appointments on a staggered basis
On Monday, March 8, seniors ages 90 and older and Indigenous residents ages 65 and older can begin booking appointments by calling 1-877-740-7747. The call centre will be open seven days per week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The public is reminded to follow a staggered approach to prevent long waits and system overload:
• March 8: Seniors born in or before 1931 (90 years and older) and Indigenous people born in or before 1956 (65 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
• March 15: Seniors born in or before 1936 (85 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment;
• March 22: Seniors born in or before 1941 (80 years and older) may call to book their vaccine appointment.
Interior Health is also reminding residents to be vigilant against fraud. Call centres will never ask for financial information, credit card details or social insurance numbers.
The call centre will only ask for legal name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number (PHN) from the back of B.C. driver's licences or BC services cards and current contact information, including an email address you or your family checks regularly or a phone number that can receive text messages.