B.C.'s 30+ residents can now sign up for vaccines at participating pharmacies

B.C.'s COVID-19 vaccine program is continuing to expand, with residents aged 30 and older now able to join waitlists to get a dose of AstraZeneca at participating pharmacies.

The province's top health officials first announced last week that change would be coming, and B.C.'s vaccine information website was updated Thursday to reflect it. Previously, only people 40 and older could book a dose with a local pharmacy, with officials citing a lack of supply of the vaccine as why appointments were limited. 

On its website, the province warns most appointments are currently booked, but recommends joining a waitlist where possible.

"We expect to get more AstraZeneca vaccine doses soon from the federal government," the site says.

Not all pharmacies are offering doses, but a list of ones that are can be found online. Last week, the B.C. Pharmacy Association said its program had expanded, with pharmacies in Penticton, Castlegar and Cranbrook added to the program. 

"Interior Health Authority pharmacies already in the program, will also be receiving a top up of supply. That includes pharmacies in Kamloops, Kelowna, Lake Country, Vernon and West Kelowna," the association said on its website Friday.

"No new vaccine has been released to pharmacy locations in Vancouver Coastal, Fraser Health, Vancouver Island or Northern Health authorities."

Last week, clinics in high-transmission hotspots began offering doses to people aged 30 and older. Some operated as pop-up clinics, which led to frustration for some locals and an apology from B.C.'s top doctor.

During her COVID-19 briefing Thursday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said Fraser Health's clinics, though they had their challenges, were meant to be an "innovative" way to reach populations in high-risk areas that haven't registered for the vaccine. 

"I absolutely apologize to people for the miscommunications and for the confusion. That was certainly not the intent," Henry said.

Along with joining waitlists at participating pharmacies, anyone aged 18 and older can register for a dose through the province's booking system. Under both systems, individuals should expect to be contacted when it's their turn to sign up for an appointment. This week, people in their 50s should expect to get a notification to book an appointment through B.C.'s age-based rollout.