Monday was the first day people could register for Northern Health’s call-in vaccination registration.
Starting at 7 a.m., if you’re age-eligible you can call the toll-free hotline – 1-844-255-7555 - to book your appointment.
Do not call the phone line unless you are 90 or older (born in 1931 or earlier) or you are an indigenous person aged 65 and older (born in 1956 or earlier).
The first phase of registration is based on age with the oldest people receiving their inoculations first.
On Wednesday, the next wave of eligible people can call in to book their appointments. People in that group must be 80 or older (born in 1941 or earlier).
The call centre will be staffed seven days per week from 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The public immunization clinics start on Monday, March 15 and in Prince George that clinic will be at the downtown Conference and Civic Centre on Canada Games Way. Each city in the Northern Health region has varying dates when the clinics will be operating and those dates are posted for each city on the health authority’s website - northernhealth.ca.
Northern Health’s goal is to administer 15,000 doses of vaccine from March 15 -April 10. As supply increases, Northern Health’s capacity will expand, with several large-scale mass vaccination clinics expected to open in April. Each appointment for an inoculation will take about 10 minutes, with an additional 15-minute wait time before leaving the venue.
“We’re a little different than the larger areas in the province with the exception of Prince George, where we won’t likely be keeping the immunization sites open for the entire four weeks,” said Northern Health chief executive officer Cathy Ulrich, in a Sunday afternoon teleconference.
“We’ll be doing more of a pop-up clinic for a few days and be completing as many immunizations as we can and then coming back and doing a catchup if there’s people that we missed.”
Ulrich confirmed Northern Health has an adequate supply of vaccine to meet its Phase 2 targets, and she said people will know what type of vaccine - either Pfizer or Moderna - they will be getting before they are given their shots.
Vaccinations are continuing for seniors now receiving home support and call centre staff will be asking if there are people who can’t physically attend a clinic and Northern Health will try to make alternate arrangements, including vaccinating them in their homes.
This is the start of Phase 2 of the province’s immunization plan. Phase 1 began in December and focused on residents, staff and essential visitors of long-term care and assisted-living facilities, hospital health care workers and people living in remote and isolated indigenous communities.
“Our Phase 2 clinics include venues in more than 30 northern B.C. communities; ranging from local health care facilities, to schools and local colleges, and conference and event centres,” said Ulrich. “We want to thank each and every community for their help in allowing use of their venues in the planned COVID-19 vaccine rollout.”
Anyone who misses their age-based dates to be eligible to call can still book and be vaccinated at any time after they become age-eligible. When you call, the operator will ask for the first and last name, date of birth, postal code, personal health number (formerly called CareCard) and contact information (email address/mobile phone number of the senior or support person). People will be given a list of clinics to attend and the call centre agent will confirm the appointment time and location.
In addition to seniors aged 80 and older and indigenous elders, Phase 2 aims to immunize hospital staff, community general practitioners and medical specialists not yet immunized. The Phase 2 vaccines will also be available to people in vulnerable settings such as homeless shelters and staff working in community home support and nursing for seniors.
“We’ve focused throughout February and March on (immunizing) long-term care and assisted-living staff and hospital staff and there are still some to be done in the hospital environment,” said Ulrich. “All of the staff who work in the emergency department, the critical care areas, the COVID units have been offered vaccine. Some of the non-direct care service staff are also being offered vaccine and then we have our community services staff and that’s where we’re focusing right at the moment.”
The province estimates 400,000 British Columbians who meet the Phase 2 age criteria will receive the COVID-19 vaccine by early-April. B.C. expects to receive 255,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine by March 29 and 160,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in mid-to-late March. The AstraZeneca vaccine will also be arriving but federal authorities are recommending not giving that type of vaccine to seniors because it has not proven to be not as effective in older people as the Pfizer or Moderna shots. Timelines for inoculations in B.C. could be shortened as more vaccines become available. On Friday, Canada approved the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Phase 3 of the immunization plan is slated to begin in April and it will serve people aged 79-60, grouped in five-year increments with the oldest receiving their shots first. Phase 3 also will serve people aged 69-16 who are considered clinically vulnerable as well as indigenous people aged 64-45.
Seniors 75 and older (born in 1946 or earlier) can begin registering in late-March for vaccinations that start in mid-April.
The provincial government plan unveiled on Monday estimates Phase 4 will be in effect from July-September and in that wave of inoculations the rest of the general adult population, aged 59-18, will receive their shots. Phase 3 and Phase 4 will require mass vaccination sites and the province plans to set up an on-line registration tool to simplify booking an appointment.
As of Sunday, there were 12 COVID patients hospitalized at University Hospital of Northern B.C. Ulrich said the arrival of vaccines and the fact most staff have received their inoculations has had a significant calming effect at the Prince George hospital, which had been under siege after several outbreaks in late-December and early-January.
“I think the opportunity to be immunized has made a big difference for people in terms of the fear that comes along with a pandemic,” said Ulrich. “People are tired right across the system and certainly at UHNBC, wave 2 has not been easy for both physicians and staff. It’s been pretty impressive the way the team over there has been able to respond on a day-by-day basis.
“In terms of the number of cases… we’re kind of over the peak in the northern Interior and also in the northeast (but) we’re still in a pretty active phase out in the northwest and that does impact hospitalizations. UHNBC does provide critical care services for the entire region, so the critical care area at UHNBC continues to be very busy. The number of hospitalizations that are non-critical has definitely been declining.”