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Northern Health vaccine availability varies by region

In most of B.C., the age of eligibility to receive a COVID-19 inoculation drops to 79 starting today, but that does not mean everyone in the Northern Health region in that age bracket can book their appointments. It depends on where you live.
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In most of B.C., the age of eligibility to receive a COVID-19 inoculation drops to 79 starting today, but that does not mean everyone in the Northern Health region in that age bracket can book their appointments.

It depends on where you live.

In Prince Rupert, where there have been recent outbreaks of the virus, anybody 18 and older is eligible to book an appointment through the vaccine call centre.

But in Prince George, the Phase 2 clinic at the Convention and Civic Centre is still open only to seniors 80 and older (born before 1941) and indigenous people 65 and older (born before 1956).

“There is a new schedule for this week upcoming that they’re provincially dropping down to age 79 at noon today, and then throughout the week in incremental changes lowering that age range, (but) we are not doing that currently,” said Northern Health spokesperson Eryn Collins.

“What is on our website (northernhealth.ca) on a community-by-community basis, it differs. A number of our communities' age-based eligibility is soon going to open to 70 years of age and older, and in some communities to those 18 years and older. In some communities, due to their population size, remoteness, logistics, it just makes more sense to open up that eligibility to a whole-community approach.”

There also could be temporary adjustments coming to vaccination schedules.

For example, Fort St. John has temporarily reduced the age limit for vaccine eligibility to seniors 70-and-older and indigenous people 55-and-older until all the appointments are filled. Collins said if that happens in Prince George, where there are timeslots not getting filled for appointments, Northern Health would consider lowering the age eligibility to fill up those appointments.

Capacity at the Prince George Conference and Civic Centre is 200 vaccinations per day. Each appointment takes about 10 minutes and the vaccinated patient is required to stay for 15 minutes after getting the shot to be monitored in case of adverse reaction. Tuesday was the first day of Northern Health’s public mass vaccination clinics. The vaccines being used are made by Pfizer and Moderna.

“Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday they did over 200 completed appointments,” said Collins.

The Northern Health call centre can be reached at 1-844-255-7555 seven days per week between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.  Only call if you are age-eligible to keep the phone lines free.

Collins said she’s unaware when local pharmacies will be administering COVID-19 vaccines and said that decision will be made by the provincial health office.

Phase 2 inoculations are scheduled to end on April 10. After that, the province plans to open more mass vaccination sites to younger adults who will be able to book their appointments online. Details of the province’s Phase 3 and 4 vaccination plan have yet to be revealed.

“We’re continuing to plan for the upcoming clinics we already have in place and additional clinics that may be needed and in some cases those clinic dates may be moved up and start earlier than originally planned,” said Collins. “The website continues to be the best source of information for not only the eligibility to call in and make appointment schedules but also when and where individual communities’ clinics will take place.”