Hope rises on the West Shore with news of mass vaccine site
LANGFORD, B.C. -- The Eagle Ridge dry floor arena in Langford is where thousands of folks will get their COVID-19 shots, starting next month.
It’s news that Langford resident Isaac Oduro said Thursday brings him a sense of hope.
“It’s fantastic that finally we got vaccination coming to Langford,” said the delivery man as he dropped off packages at the arena.
The arena is the first mass vaccination site the province has confirmed, and Premier John Horgan referenced it Thursday during a news conference.
“The Eagle Ridge dry floor has been made available by the City of Langford to Island Health as a vaccination location,” said the premier, noting that health authorities around the province are confirming locations for other mass vaccination sites.
Details are still being worked out for when the vaccines will commence at the arena, but Gerry St. Cry, who manages the facility, said Thursday that Island Health is expected to take over the arena as soon as possible, with the goal of having it vaccine-ready by March 1. The plan is for the health authority to use the arena for COVID-19 shots through August, if necessary.
“We’re just getting ready to hand the place over to Island Health, and they're getting ready to do the vaccinations as soon as possible,” said St. Cry.
Langford Mayor Stew Young is excited about the plan and says he wants to see vaccines administered around the clock.
“Let’s run this thing 24 hours a day, seven days a week, let’s not shut down on holidays,” said Young. “Let’s get people vaccinated. Let’s make this a priority.”
Activities such as lacrosse that normally happen at the arena in the winter and spring will be displaced, with a youth league looking to book other venues.
But it’s clear for many people, including Oduro, news of the mass vaccine site makes the end of the pandemic seem more tangible.
“I don’t want to be wearing a mask all the time; I want to breathe,” he said. “I want to breathe fresh air, so it gives me hope that finally something is coming.”
But that hope is also tempered by the reality that the vaccine rollout across the country, including B.C., has been delayed and remains uncertain.
That reality prompted Horgan Thursday to acknowledge that buying Canadian-made vaccines — something Manitoba has committed to — makes sense in the long run.
“Today there is no vaccine to buy in Canada,” said Horgan. “If it becomes available, we will be at the front of the line to buy as much as possible — along with others — to meet the needs of British Columbians.”
Island Health isn’t revealing its other vaccination sites yet, apart from acknowledging they’ll be in gyms, convention centres and community halls.