A nurse prepares a vaccine dose at an immunization clinic for long-term care workers in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)

A nurse prepares a vaccine dose at an immunization clinic for long-term care workers in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)

Island Health making hard choices about vaccines and ‘who gets into the lifeboat’

Vaccine delivery delays keeping chief medical health officer awake at night

COVID-somnia is a new term that’s started appearing in medical literature, says Dr. Richard Stanwick, and it’s a phenomenon with which he’s personally familiar.

Island Health’s chief medical officer said at a press conference Wednesday, Jan. 27, that he’s found himself awake late at night worrying about case counts, and recently, vaccine rollout.

Island Health has a plan for mass vaccination in 33 different Vancouver Island communities. However, things aren’t going exactly to plan as vaccine doses are in short supply.

“It’s really disappointing because we had really good plans to roll it out to the most vulnerable populations to really blunt the possibility of seeing the outbreaks we are,” Stanwick said. “Had vaccine been available in greater amounts and we were able to deliver it sooner, we wouldn’t be seeing the 500 cases in the last two weeks.”

The doctor said Island Health has provided 24,065 doses of vaccine so far, and and has immunized all residents who wished to receive vaccine in long-term care and licenced assisted-living facilities. Individuals in acute care who are eligible for long-term placement are among those next in line for vaccine.

Along the way there has been some re-prioritization, for example vaccination of members of Snuneymuxw First Nation and seniors from the Cowichan Tribes, as Island Health and the First Nations Health Authority have worked together to try to respond to and control outbreaks.

Island Health is also making adjustment to its immunization plan for health-care workers. Stanwick said “we have to ration it right now” to workers who are dealing with COVID-19 cases or who are most likely to come into contact with COVID patients.

“It’s gotten to the point where we may even have to ration it to only those hospitals where there are COVID units,” Stanwick said. “The big frustration is the degree to which we’re playing who gets into the lifeboat, who gets out of the lifeboat in terms of vaccine and this is not something that we ever anticipated that we’d be facing this early on.”

story continues below

The health authority isn’t expecting any more Pfizer vaccine for the next two weeks and then a small amount in the third week. Supply of the Moderna vaccine seems to be more secure, Stanwick said, but Island Health won’t know exact dose numbers until it receives delivery.

With vaccines delayed, health officials are continually re-assessing timing of the second doses. Stanwick said virologists believe a booster six weeks after the first dose might be OK, and that’s an important consideration when health officials are making life-and-death decisions to “protect the greatest number of people and approach this in a fashion that is fair and consistent for the entire province.”

The arrival of COVID variants is also a concern, as a more transmissible virus would alter previous calculations around herd immunity. And Stanwick said other health and safety precautions remain important, as one in 20 people still won’t be immune even after two vaccine doses.

Despite reasons for COVID-somnia and concerning case counts, Stanwick said Vancouver Island is “still in an enviable position” and Island Health is continuing to prepare as if the vaccine manufacturers will come through with deliveries.

“We are really anticipating that we will be in a position to offer a lot more vaccine to a lot more people,” he said. “The only question is when.”

For more details about the provincial government’s immunization plan, click here.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: Canada to get 20% of promised Pfizer vaccines in next few weeks; feds look at vial size

READ ALSO: B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kyle Patrick McGuire was give a nine-month non-custodial sentencing to be followed by two years of probation on Wednesday, March 3, at the Nanaimo Law Courts. (PQB News file photo)
Bowser man sentenced to house arrest after guilty plea to child pornography offence

Nine-month non-custodial sentence to be followed by two years probation

The Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges with garbage bin replacement requests. (Michael Briones photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo faces challenges to meet requests for garbage bin replacements

Waste manager says RDN will have a surplus of 100-litre carts

Members of the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. set up the tube where rainbow trout were released into Spider Lake on Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Michael Briones photo)
Fishing time: 1,800 rainbow trout released into Spider Lake

Society records spike in fishing licences during pandemic

A map showing where the new developments for affordable housing will be located on Moilliet Street in Parksville. (submitted photo)
Parksville city council approves development permit for 87 housing units

Development to include four-storey apartment and eight townhouses

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Most Read