VICTORIA -- Provincial health officials identified nine new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Island region Thursday.

The new cases were among 378 cases found across British Columbia over the past 24 hours, bringing the province’s total to 143,264 cases since the pandemic began.

The Island Health region has now recorded 5,036 cases since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seven more people in B.C. have died of COVID-19, health officials announced Thursday, bringing the province’s pandemic death toll to 1,690. The youngest victim was in their 60s, while three others were in their 70s and three more were in their 80s, according to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

None of the deaths announced Thursday were in the Vancouver Island region, where the pandemic has killed 40 people.

There are currently 133 active cases of COVID-19 in the island region, including 11 people in hospital and two more in critical care.

Island Health identified the locations of 92 of the active cases Thursday, including 32 in the South Island, 37 in the Central Island and 23 in the North Island.

Public health officials have now administered 3,032,811 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in B.C., including 156,730 secondary doses.

“This equates to 65.8 per cent of adults,” Henry said. “Or 62 per cent of all eligible British Columbians 12 and over.”

Henry announced that the interval for second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be shortened dramatically from the initial 16-week target to eight weeks for most British Columbians.

“The second booster dose is important for your own individual protection,” Henry said. “It ensures that you have maximum protection for the maximum amount of time.”

The provincial health officer said residents over 70 years old started receiving invites for their second dose on Thursday morning. 

Residents and staff at long-term care facilities have already been receiving their second doses, with all long-term care and assisted living centres expected to be fully vaccinated in the next few days, Henry said.

Likewise, residents of rural Indigenous communities will be fully vaccinated with second doses in the coming weeks, according to health officials.

Henry said that while it is “always preferable” to have the same type of vaccine for first and second doses, it may not be possible for everyone.

“We’re going to try to make sure that everybody gets the second dose of the same product they had for their first dose,” Henry said. “But we know that some issues with shipments of Moderna might mean that people who received Moderna in one of the mass clinics – the large community clinics – may be offered Pfizer for their dose two.” 

The provincial health officer said everyone in B.C. will be able to have a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the summer.