B.C. health officials are reporting 564 new cases of COVID-19 and four further deaths due to the disease over the past 24 hours.
The province now has 4,743 active cases, with 248 in hospital and 64 in critical care. Another 8,659 are under active public health monitoring due to exposure to confirmed cases.
To date, the province has seen 82,473 total cases, with 76,289 recovered and 1,376 dead.
Of the new cases, 36 are in the Interior Health region, 168 are in Vancouver Coastal Health, 279 are in Fraser Health, 35 in Vancouver Island Health and 46 in Northern Health.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. is quickly moving into a "new place" with its pandemic.
"We're getting a regular supply of vaccine and more are on the way," she said, noting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is nearing approval for use in Canada.
B.C. is also making a change to its vaccine strategy, moving first responders and essential workers up the list in a new program that will run in parallel to the province's age-based program. The new program will use the "added bonus" AstraZeneca vaccine doses, that were not expected to arrive so early, to vaccinate these new groups.
The province has created an extensive list of those who may be deemed working in essential services.
While it is not yet clear exactly who will be vaccinated first, the list, which is available online, lists those working in health, law enforcement and other first responders, critical infrastructure, food and agriculture, transportation, industry and manufacturing, sanitation, communications and IT, financial institutions and others.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has shown lower efficacy in clinical trials, but is still recommended by health organizations.
Henry said the trials by different companies are not comparable, being done in different populations and in different time frames, and insisted it would be effective, citing data from the World Health Organization.
"The AstraZeneca vaccine works well. It has high levels of protection after three weeks," she said.
But, Henry said, a third wave in April and May still poses a serious threat, especially with variants of concern lingering in communities.
Henry said about 25 per cent of all variant cases do not have an identified source, meaning it is spreading in the community.
On Thursday, B.C. reported an additional 46 variant cases in the province. To date, there have been 246 such cases, with 218 of those being the U.K. variant and 28 of the South Africa variant. The majority of cases have been in the Lower Mainland and two have been in the Interior Health region.
Of the variant cases, 16 remain active. Two deaths in recent days have been caused by variants.
On the immunization front, 298,851 doses have now been administered. Of those, 86,746 are second doses.