A seniors care home hit hard by COVID-19 is among the first in the Tri-Cities to get doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Tri-City News has confirmed.
Staff and residents of Lakeshore Care Care Centre were vaccinated last week just as as the coronavirus outbreak was declared over at the 56-bed long term care facility.
And while the care home community must feel a sense of relief after receiving the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 8, the news comes as Fraser Health reports that 21 people died of the disease at the facility before the outbreak was finally declared over.
“100% of our residents and 90% of our team received the first dose of the Pfizer Vaccine today. We expect nearly 100% of our staff to receive the vaccine, but those that are still recovering from COVID must wait,” Lakeshore administrator Gavin MacIntosh stated in an email to families.
The residents of the nearby Madison Care Centre were vaccinated, as well. The Madison is currently the site of an outbreak that has affected seven residents and one staff person. A resident has also died. Both the Madison and Lakeshore Care Centre are owned by The Care Group.
A family member stated in an email that Madison family members were told that staff and residents were to get the vaccine Jan. 7 and 8. Family permissions were required for resident shots.
A spokesperson at Nicola Lodge Care Community in Port Coquitlam — a long-term care home managing a COVID-19 outbreak that has taken four lives and infected 47 residents and staff members — confirmed 179 out of 205 residents have been vaccinated as of Jan. 12.
Outside of long-term care and assisted living facilities, a spokesperson for Fraser Health said the health authority is currently focused on vaccinating acute care staff and paramedics in in the first stage of “one of the largest and most complex vaccine rollouts in recent history.”
While Fraser Health said it could not provide specific immunization numbers for individual communities, as of Jan. 7, 15,908 people had been vaccinated across the region, which extends from Boston Bar to Burnaby and includes Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.
By Jan. 23, Fraser Health expects to immunize more than 6,000 medical and support staff, including those in dedicated support services in emergency departments, critical care units and COVID-19 units.
Through January, the health authority said it expects to immunize between 12,000 and 15,000 people per week, a rate that’s predicted to climb to 30,000 per week by February.
Dedicated immunization clinics have been opened at Fraser Health’s three regional COVID-19 hospitals: Surrey Memorial Hospital, Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, which serves the Tri-Cities. Burnaby Hospital began an immunization clinic last week as well, and remote First Nations communities are set to receive their first doses in Fraser Health starting Wednesday, Jan. 13.
Yet as the vaccine arrives in spurts from the federal government, some have questioned how it’s being administered to health care staff.
Last week, Doctors of B.C. president Dr. Kathleen Ross took to Twitter after she said vaccinations were abruptly shut down by Fraser Health after 1,200 health care workers were immunized in under three days.
“No word on when we will protect our frontliners despite rising cases,” she wrote.
“There is no logic in slowing the vaccine rollout to those stepping up and treating acute care patients as the numbers rise. These same physicians are stepping up and traveling to the community to vaccinate our LTC Facilities.”
When asked for comment, Dr. Ross said she had been “politely asked not to engage the media.”
News that vaccinations have taken place in the region’s hospitals and at least one Coquitlam care home come as several groups seek inclusion on B.C.’s list of essential workers requiring COVID-19 vaccines.
Coquitlam teachers are asking that they be among the groups vaccinated in the early days of the roll out.
Coquitlam Teachers’ Association president Ken Christensen was a signatory to a letter sent to Fraser Health last week asking that educators receive vaccinations “as soon as possible.”
The letter from 12 BC Teachers Federation locals also asked for timely contact tracing by Fraser Health, even as schools began to report coronavirus cases, reduced classroom density to promote physical distancing and changes to how school outbreaks are declared.
So far, five schools have been flagged for COVID-19 exposures in recent days, four in Coquitlam and one in Port Coquitlam.
OTHER FIRST RESPONDERS
Under guidance from the National Advisory Committee on Vaccinations, provincial health officials have put seniors and health care workers at the top of the vaccination queue.
But while that’s placed first responders like paramedics in line for early vaccinations, others like firefighters say they are patiently waiting in the dark.
“We still have a long way to go,” said Gord Ditchburn, president of the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Association and a Port Coquitlam resident.
Ditchburn said he has spoken to the Ministry of Health in an effort to work out how and when firefighters will be included in the province’s vaccination plans.
“We’re on the precipice of getting this vaccine,” he said. “Everyone is in that boat.”
In the meantime, Coquitlam Fire and Rescue Chief Jim Ogloff said his department continues its stringent use of personal protective equipment when out on medical calls.
In Port Coquitlam, Chief Rob Kipps said he’s “disappointed it’s not sooner than later,” but that if any group asks to get bumped up, “we’d be possibly putting other people at risk.”
“We’d all like to have it tomorrow. But that’s just not going to happen,” he said.
Meanwhile, on Monday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry defended the vaccine rollout plan, saying it was created taking into consideration limited supply to provide the most vaccine to the highest risk populations.
“We do not have enough supply between now and the end of March to achieve that community immunity that protects us all,” she said.
On Tuesday, the province's vaccination effort had started to sputter: only 2,392 people have been vaccinated in the past 48 hours, the lowest number of vaccinations over a two-day period since before Christmas. Another shipment of the Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are expected later this week, said Henry Monday.
Anyone not on the current vaccine priority list will have to wait until April when the province said it will release a tiered list of who is next in line for a coronavirus vaccine, she added.
“If you haven’t seen your name on the list until after March, it’s because we’re working on the details,” Henry said. “Everybody will have their turn.”
— With files from Glen Korstrom