Vax

Almost one of every five eligible British Columbians have now been vaccinated against COVID-19, provincial officials said Wednesday.

Details are scarce, but COVID-19 vaccines should be available in some Okanagan pharmacies later this week, while a new online booking system for public clinics is expected to go live across B.C. on Tuesday morning.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced in a statement Saturday the province is working with the BC Pharmacy Association to offer the AstraZeneca shots in 11 communities outside the Lower Mainland, including Kelowna and Vernon. Penticton wasn’t mentioned, but the Ministry of Health suggested Monday the list isn’t inclusive.

“The list of communities from the (Dix) statement are an example of what the expansion will look like,” a spokesperson said.

“We’re working quickly to finalize the details on our expansion outside of the Lower Mainland and will have more to share on the exact locations in the coming days.”

Last week, nearly 500 pharmacies in the Lower Mainland, where B.C.’s COVID-19 case counts are highest, began offering the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is only approved for use in people between 55 and 65.

Appointments must be booked directly with pharmacies, and a list of participating locations is available at bcpharmacy.ca.

Meanwhile, a new online system through which all eligible B.C. adults can book vaccination appointments at public clinics was slated to go live at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated Tuesday morning.

Registration will open in phases in reverse order of age and risk. The first group up will be those 71 and older, Indigenous people 18 and older, and those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable.

“With more vaccine supply, we are taking an important step into Phase 3 of our immunization plan, and I encourage anyone who has questions to go to the BC Centre for Disease Control website to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines we have here in B.C.,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said.

“Every vaccine delivered makes all of us safer – let’s keep our momentum going and get everyone who wants one their first dose by Canada Day.”

The provincial health officer’s statement said “nearly 770,000 eligible British Columbians – or one in six – have received their first dose of vaccine, and more than 87,000 have received their second dose. If B.C.’s vaccine supply is delivered as scheduled, everyone in B.C. who is eligible for the vaccine will receive their first dose by the end of June.”

By comparison, 2.1 million people in Washington state – about one-third of the population there – had received their first shot, while another 1.3 million had been fully vaccinated, according to the state’s Department of Health.