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Health-care worker first to receive COVID-19 vaccine in B.C.

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix shared a photo of a woman with her sleeve rolled up at a nondescript table in a plain room
COVID-19 vaccine Pfizer
A health-care worker in Vancouver Coastal Health is the first person in B.C. to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Photograph via Adrian Dix/Twitter

A 64-year-old residential care aid from the Vancouver Coastal Health region of British Columbia was the first person in the province to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a tweet Tuesday afternoon, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix shared a photo of a woman with her sleeve rolled up at a nondescript table in a plain room. 

“1st day of BC’s province-wide COVID-19 immunizations,” wrote Dix.   

The Tri-City News requested interviews with people involved in early vaccination efforts, but so far has not been granted access. 

Later Tuesday, the Ministry of Health issued a press release indicating Nisha Yunus, a 41-year veteran of a single care home, was the first person in the province to be given the COVID-19 vaccine; the second, health-care assistant Linda Latour, was the first in Fraser Health. 

"I am so grateful. It feels like a dream came true. It is both a privilege and an honour to receive the first COVID-19 vaccine in British Columbia," Yunus was quoted in a government press release. 

"I have seen first-hand what COVID-19 does to families, and I am hopeful we are getting closer to finally reaching the end of this pandemic, so people can reunite safely with their loved ones and put this behind us."

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be administered in B.C. come six days after Health Canada approved its use in Canada. But with its effectiveness contingent on being stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, health officials have limited its distribution to two undisclosed sites in B.C., one in Vancouver Coastal Health and one in Fraser Health. 

Hiding the location of vaccination sites has been done to safeguard its delivery, said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry last week. 

“There has been a concerted effort to try and interrupt the cold chain, for example, and sabotage immunization programs,” said Henry Dec. 10, noting health officials have worked closely with the RCMP and the Department of National Defence. 

“We all need to take appropriate precautions to make sure it’s safe and it’s not tampered with.”

The ultra-cold storage requirement and security measures mean those in line to get inoculated must come to the vaccine, counting out seniors in long-term care homes, who were put at the top of the priority list by a federal advisory body. 

Health-care workers in acute and long-term care settings will continue to receive the early batches of the Pfizer vaccine, with just under 4,000 doses delivered this week. The federal government has contracts for 249,000 doses in December, four million by March and has the option to buy 56 million more. 

Meanwhile, the Moderna vaccine candidate is expected to be the next in line to receive Health Canada authorization. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the company would deliver 168,000 doses by the end of the year.

"This is the good news we all needed," Trudeau said. "This pandemic will end. We will get through this. But for now, we need to be incredibly careful."

Premier John Horgan echoed Trudeau’s cautious optimism Tuesday, adding his government is not yet sure how a potential scarcity of available vaccines will affect who and how many British Columbians will get inoculated by the spring.

“Keep in mind this is a scarce resource at the present time,” said Horgan Tuesday only hours before the first dose was injected. “There are over 7 billion souls on the planet.”

“We’re going to have to be patient.”