Vancouver Island adds 5 new COVID-19 cases; vaccine program 'accelerating'
British Columbia health officials identified five new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Thursday.
The new cases were among 120 cases found across B.C. over the past 24 hours.
Authorities have now confirmed 146,794 cases of COVID-19 in the province since the pandemic began, including 5,145 cases in the Vancouver Island region.
One more person has died of COVID-19 in the province, health officials announced Thursday, bringing B.C.'s pandemic death toll to 1,739.
The victim was in their 80s and died after an outbreak at a hospital in Richmond, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
Forty-one people in the Vancouver Island region have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
There are currently 83 active cases of COVID-19 in the island region, including four people in hospital and one more in critical care, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.
Island Health identified the locations of 55 of the active cases Thursday, including 40 in the South Island, seven in the Central Island and eight in the North Island.
Approximately 76.5 per cent of adults in B.C. have now received a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, while 74.8 per cent of people aged 12 and older have received their first shot.
“Our second doses are accelerating with invitations going out to tens of thousands of people every day now,” Henry said.
PFIZER VACCINE SHIPMENT REDUCED
B.C.’s top doctor cautioned, however, that a shipment of Pfizer vaccines that is due to arrive in the province during the first two weeks of July has been reduced in volume.
“That is something that happens when you’re in a global pandemic with a global vaccine supply,” Henry said. “We know these speedbumps happen and, while disappointing, they’re not unexpected.”
Henry said the decreased volume of vaccines will not affect the province’s immunization timeline, adding the shortfall is expected to be rectified with a larger shipment later in the month.
The shortfall will be further offset with an increased supply of Moderna vaccines later this week, Henry said.
“We encourage everybody to get that second dose as soon as it is available to you,” Henry said.
ASTRAZENECA STILL 'SAFE AND EFFECTIVE'
Earlier on Thursday, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended that people who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine should receive a second dose of an mRNA vaccine, such as Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, instead of another AstraZeneca shot.
The advice takes into consideration the most recent evidence on the rare instances of blood clots associated with the AstraZeneca shot, as well as emerging evidence “suggesting better immune responses” when an individual receives a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second dose of an mRNA vaccine.
Henry said the choice of which vaccine to get for a second dose is still up to British Columbians to make.
“We can be very reassured that two doses of whatever vaccine you receive are safe and effective and work here in B.C.,” Henry said, adding that provincial health officials continue to monitor for the optimal timeline to receive a second dose, and whether a third booster dose may even be beneficial.
Henry stressed that the latest NACI guidance is “not definitive,” saying “there’s no wrong decision” when it comes to getting one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines in B.C.
“If you got two doses of AstraZeneca, you can rest assured you got a safe and effective vaccine and we will be monitoring the effectiveness over time and if you need a booster dose, we’ll be able to provide that to you,” Henry said.