The B.C. Government has given further details on its COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan, which includes a multi-phased approached focusing on age.

Dr. Penny Ballem, executive lead of the B.C. immunization rollout, said the plan has four phases, focusing on the elderly and those living in long-term and assisted living facilities and their staff first.

“Focus of phase one and two is protecting those most vulnerable to severe illness first, then phase three and four will focus on vaccinating the rest of the broad public. We are currently in phase one, which started in December and will continue until the end of February,” explained Dr. Ballem. “These phases may vary a little bit, depending upon flows of vaccine, but this is a very good platform to start from to get ourselves organized.”

Phase two will take place from February to March, phase three will go from April to June, and phase four will go from July to September.

According to Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, there are approximately 4.3-million people in B.C. who will be eligible for vaccinations, with two doses each, that would add up to about 8.6-million vaccines needed across the province.

“From December until the end of March, we expect to receive just under 800,000 doses of vaccine. Then from April to the end of June, another 2.6-million doses, and finally, from June to September, about 6-million doses. As you can see, these are back-end loaded, so our plan takes that into account.”

Even as 4.3-million people are eligible, Dr. Henry said that it excludes about 900,000 people under the age of 18, as neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in children.

As vaccines become more widely available, the Province plans to set up clinics in 172 B.C. communities starting in March, along with mobile clinics and home visits for immunization.

“In March, you’ll have the opportunity to pre-register and sign up for appointments, based on age, through your mobile device, computer, or by phone,” explained Henry.

According to Dr. Henry, COVID-19 becomes significantly more deadly with age, even among people with other comorbidities.

“The most appropriate approach right now to meet our goal of reducing morbidity and mortality is to use that overriding risk factor of age.”

“Adults older than 60 have at least five times increased risk of hospitalization and death compared to those less than 45 years of age. In particular, people over 80 have double the mortality risk of those in the 60 to 65 age group.”

That risk to the older population led to the decision to begin immunizing those over 80 as part of phase two. The following two phases will then open up vaccinations to those under 80 in five-year age increments to ensure those most vulnerable to infection become protected first. For example, phase three will have vaccines for those aged 60 to 79 and people between 16 and 69 who are deemed clinically extremely vulnerable. In phase four, those between 18 and 59 will be vaccinated in descending five-year increments.

More: BC’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan (B.C. Government)