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NDP under fire for COVID-19 booster delay; should have been given weeks ago, Liberals say

Ontario started giving boosters to long-term care residents in August, while Alberta began offering boosters in seniors homes on Sept. 1, and Saskatchewan on Sept. 7.
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B.C. started giving COVID-19 booster shots to the most extremely vulnerable in mid-September.

Sixty-two long-term care and assisted living homes in B.C. have received COVID-19 booster shots, with “more to come every day,” Health Minister Adrian Dix said Monday, as the government came under fire for what the Opposition Liberals say is a hazardous delay in boosters in care facilities.

The Health Ministry was unable to say Monday how many of the 62 homes are on the Island.

“Vulnerable seniors in long-term care were supposed to be getting their booster shots starting weeks ago,” said Opposition Leader Shirley Bond. She cited an outbreak affecting about 80 residents and 20 staff at Willingdon Care Centre in the Fraser Health Authority that has been responsible for at least 10 deaths. “It only has 95 beds,” she said.

Bond pointed to an internal document from Fraser Health suggesting eligible residents will be offered a third dose by mid-December, which she said is not good enough.

“This is not a supply issue, we know that,” Bond said. “It is a failure to organize the rollout.”

B.C. Care Providers Association president Terry Lake, a former health minister, said in an interview that Alberta has finished its boosters in long-term care and assisted living. Lake said the outbreak at Willingdon could have been prevented if B.C. started when Alberta did.

Ontario started giving boosters to long-term care residents in August, while Alberta began offering boosters in seniors homes on Sept. 1, and Saskatchewan on Sept. 7.

“We have been asking for six weeks,” said Lake. “When [provincial health officer] Dr. Bonnie Henry finally gave the go-ahead, health authorities had no plans in place.”

Island Health is saying boosters in the region will be completed the first week of November, said Lake, “so they are ahead of the game.”

Henry, who is scheduled to provide an update on boosters as part of a COVID update with Dix today, has said the boosters would coincide with flu shots.

B.C. started giving COVID-19 booster shots to the most extremely vulnerable in mid-September, said Dix. Boosters in long-term care and assisted living will be completed “long before the middle of December,” he said.

Twenty-six COVID-related deaths were reported over a 72-hour period Friday to Sunday, including three in Island Health, the province said in statement Monday. The death total is now 2,081.

There were 1,846 new cases of COVID-19 — including 169 in Island Health — bringing total active cases to 4,917 (521 in Island Health). Dix told a news conference that 130 of 151 people in intensive care with COVID-19 in the province were unvaccinated.

Forty-six people with COVID‑19 are in hospital in the Island Health region, including 27 in intensive care.

The number of people age 12 and older who are fully vaccinated has remained at 83 per cent since Friday.

Pfizer announced Monday it has applied for Canadian authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine meant for children aged five to 11.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

With a file from The Canadian Press

Vaccination information online: gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated