Henry apologizes for pop-up vaccine clinic confusion

Some Lower Mainlanders went without vaccinations after waiting in lines for hours

A pop-up vaccine clinic in Coquitlam | Photo: Submitted

B.C.’s top doctor is apologizing for the confusion and miscommunication over the rollout of a series of pop-up vaccination clinics across the Lower Mainland this week that left many hopeful COVID-19 vaccine recipients without a jab after waiting in line for hours.

The province deployed a series of clinics offering the AstraZeneca plc vaccine to anyone 30 years and older across 13 hotspots in the Fraser Health region.

But significant confusion erupted, with many locals sifting through social media for the heads-up on the location of clinics.

Many travelled outside their own communities to receive vaccines not meant for them — but rather — for those living in COVID-19 hotspots. Others faced long lineups at the pop-up clinics only to be told hours later there were no more doses available.

“There were some operational things that were done or not done that caused a lot of frustration and I can see that, and I absolutely apologize to people for the miscommunications and for the confusion,” B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a briefing.

“We are concerned the way these rolled out. These were done with the right intentions.”

She urged people not to travel to other communities dealing with the hotspots if they did not live there.

The province is not due to receive additional AstraZeneca vaccine doses in the short term.

But the first delivery of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) is due to arrive in the province next week. Henry said more details on its distribution across the province will be revealed in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) is ramping up deliveries to Canada for the coming weeks with more than two million doses due to arrive in the country each week beginning next month and through to the end of June.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said B.C. will receive 276,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine next week.

To date, 1,659,079 British Columbians — or 39% of the eligible population of 4.3 million people — have received at least one dose, while 90,296 have received second doses.

Henry said that 15% of the province’s vaccine supply has been diverted to first responders, school staff and child-care staff “the last few weeks” but she said the marked increase of Pfizer deliveries in the coming weeks and months will free up more supply for the province’s age-based vaccination program.

“It’s been relatively slow because of vaccine accessibility,” she said, referring to vaccinations meant for school staff in B.C.

Henry said she has been “talking to Washington state about potentials” for cross-border vaccination efforts.

Earlier in the day, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister confirmed teachers in his province would be permitted to travel to North Dakota to receive vaccinations.