VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor is advising people with chronic health conditions to contact their family doctor to determine if they should get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was tested primarily on healthy people of varying ages and it's not known if it will work or is safe for those with chronic liver or kidney diseases, for example.
Clinical trials of the Moderna vaccine, which is expected to be the next one to be approved in Canada, also excluded people who are immunocompromised.
Henry says 1,215 health-care workers have been vaccinated so far with the limited number of vaccine doses available and about 380,000 people are expected to be immunized in the province by March.
The province has recorded 673 new cases of COVID-19 and 21 more deaths, for a total of 713 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.
Henry says the vaccine will be a "game-changer" for residents of long-term care homes, who have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, but for now it's important for everyone to keep their gatherings small heading into Christmas.
"If we get through this period, we can protect residents in long-term care and we can start allowing people to safely come back into those communities again and be with their loved ones."
Henry urged people to look ahead to better days when more vaccine doses will be available for widespread immunization.
"We may be days away from the solstice and the darkness and the longest night of the year, but without a doubt we have light ahead and we can't let all that sacrifice that we have done together in this past year be all for naught."
Henry also announced an outbreak at the LNG Canada project site in Kitimat, B.C.
Northern Health says in a release that 15 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 of the approximately 40 people at the site.
It says all of them have been tested and those who are infected or were in close contact have been instructed to self-isolate.
The health authority says the current outbreak is not related to one declared last month.
There have also been two outbreaks at poultry processing plants in the Fraser Health region.
The authority says nine staff are positive for COVID at Rossdown Natural Foods Ltd. in Abbotsford, while 30 employees at the Wingtat Game Bird Packers Inc. processing plant in Surrey also tested positive.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 17, 2020.
The Canadian Press