B.C. needs full mobilization, not half measures, in war on COVID-19

It is true that the province needs a “circuit-breaker” to cut the power of the coronavirus. Monday’s moves, though, hardly pull the plug.

Closing Whistler-Blackcomb when spring break is done and the Brazil variant has made its way there. Curtailing restaurants to patios, takeout and delivery when the warm weather is arriving. Reimposing restrictions on places of worship before they were actually lifted. Cutting group adult fitness classes.

All of these for three whole weeks.

This doesn’t sound like a circuit-breaker, more like a BC Hydro campaign to conserve energy.

Want to break the cycle? Here’s a novel thought: Vaccinate the spreaders, the 20-to-39-year-old cohort that Premier John Horgan chided Monday “not to blow this” for their parents.

Now, if that’s too out-of-the-box in rewarding bad behaviour, here’s another thought: Use all the vaccine we’ve been receiving.

Vaccine recipients aren’t the only ones who need to roll up their sleeves. This week British Columbia expects delivery of 366,430 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca COVID vaccines. Sounds like about 52,000 of us will be getting jabbed each day, right?

Hardly.

The best we have done is jab a little more than 28,000 in a day. Over the weekend, more like 20,000 a day. If it weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable.

Now, sure, all of a sudden Monday the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended for “a few days” for those under 55, but apart from some Indigenous people and front-line workers, this isn’t an age group getting any vaccines yet. You have to be 73 or older to qualify at the moment, and the AstraZeneca dose is likely still going to them.

What Dr. Bonnie Henry called “good progress” on the vaccinations and what Horgan said was ahead of schedule is actually a stretch. We might only be ahead of schedule because the schedule was conservative, because we weren’t ready, because we made certain choices on how to apply the supply. We are certainly not on a path with this crawl to have everyone in B.C. vaccinated by July. Something big has to change.

Much as the focus Monday was on the higher caseloads and the tepid combat measures, the larger issue is that we’re sitting on doses of vaccine and stockpiling them needlessly. The government’s own data indicates this. The officer in charge of the vaccination plan, Dr. Penny Ballam, has said the province needs a three-day supply handy – for what, it is not clear.

In a few short weeks, we have gone in B.C. from beggars to hoarders.

People have grown tired of restrictions, have selectively heard what they wish to hear about directions and are done with them, and have with the help of coronavirus variants fuelled a furious new surge in cases that will not soon abate – certainly not coming out of spring break.

The shipments are about to substantially grow. If we continue to lag behind in how we dispense vaccines, we run a real risk with public order. It may look like wretched maskless excess below the border, but there must be something swifter at hand for us in between the current regimes of Miami and Mission, Texas and Tofino.

After all, we’re in a race of vaccination versus variant.

The best our provincial government has done in recent days is hire 1,400 non-medical staff ad hoc to help operate vaccination sites. This is a bucket at a blaze.

It needed, and needs, a militaristic operation to administer the shots, enabling all competent practitioners and not just a narrow group to do so. We need all-day, all-night clinics, wherever there are refrigerators sufficient to the task of storing the doses. This is no time for old-school banker’s hours.

And if people aren’t signing up and booking appointments swiftly enough, or if they don’t show for the day’s supply, take the next people in line. Let younger age groups qualify to use the day’s supply, to be on the equivalent of airport standby – instead of filling every seat, we should be emptying every vial. Let younger families of eligible people come to late-day appointments to see if there are extra doses available from people who skipped their booking. Anything to speed it up.

To need nearly a doubling of record vaccinations daily just to apply the supply?  To know that the shipments stand to increase in the weeks ahead and that, if anything, a doubling won’t then even be enough? We conducted a provincial election in October, so how is it we can’t conduct comprehensive provincial vaccinations a few months hence?

It is true we are in an ultramarathon here, but we have hit the wall when it is time to sprint, not stumble.

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.