If you are between the ages of 55 and 65, you will have to wait until May or June before you can get vaccinated for COVID-19, according to the provincial government’s rollout timeline, unless you want to jump the queue through your pharmacy.
The B.C. government has approved pharmacists in the Lower Mainland to deliver the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine to citizens aged 55 to 65, starting March 31.
Under the provincial vaccine rollout, citizens in that age category will not be able to join the vaccination queue until May and June, using the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.
Those vaccines need special cold storage, and can therefore only be dispensed at clinics set up to properly store and administer the vaccines.
The AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD does not have the same storage requirements, so it may be more easily transported and delivered.
Some concerns have been raised over the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD, as it is less effective than the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNtech vaccines, which have a high rate of prevention against COVID-19. It is deemed to be 62% effective against COVID-19, whereas the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are deemed to be 95% effective.
There have also been side effects associated with the AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine as well, including blood clotting in younger people. A number of health agencies have therefore determined that the vaccine should only be given to people aged 55 and older.
Provincial health officer Bonnie Henry says the vaccine is effective and urges Lower Mainlanders to take advantage of the ability to get vaccinated early.
"The AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccine is another important tool in our immunization program to get us past this surge of COVID-19 cases,” she said in a news release.
“We know from the millions of doses used worldwide, and especially in the U.K., it is highly effective and the benefits to those over age 55 far outweigh the very real risks of getting COVID-19.
“I encourage everyone in the Lower Mainland who is between 55 and 65 years of age to receive their safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine today."
As of March 31, Lower Mainlanders aged 55 to 65 will be able to call their local pharmacy or go online to book their first shot. Residents may also be able to their shots on a walk-in basis.
Some pharmacies like Shoppers Drug Mart and Rexall have begun to accept bookings online, for select locations. So far, London Drugs is only offering online bookings for Manitoba and Alberta on its website.